What to do if your child is being bullied

Finding out that your child is being bullied can be incredibly distressing. But how can you spot the signs, and what can you do to support them? Our Parents Helpline team share their advice.

How to spot the signs that your child is being bullied

Bullying affects many young people every year, and anyone can be bullied. It is not always easy to spot the signs if your child is being bullied, but here are some things to look out for:

  • changes in behaviour - is your child more upset, withdrawn or angry than usual?
  • changes in appearance - is your child visibly sadder or more tired than usual?
  • school refusal - is your child more reluctant to go to school, or complaining of being physically unwell more than often?
  • a drop in grades - has your child's academic performance gotten worse for no clear reason?
  • cagey behaviour around social media - is your child trying to hide what's going on for them on social media?

Sometimes there may be no signs, as your child may try to hide what's going on. What you can do as a parent is try to keep lines of communication with your child as open as possible. By focusing on listening and being non-judgemental, you can help them to feel they can talk to you about whatever is going on for them.

If you have a gut feeling as a parent that something's not right with your child, ask them about it in a gentle way. For more advice on how to start a conversation with your child about how they're feeling, as well as games and activities you can use to create a relaxed space to talk, have a look at our starting a conversation with your child guide.

How to work with your child's school if they are being bullied

  • keep a log of incidents - this will help you during conversations with the school, and if you ever need to escalate the concern
  • try to maintain a positive relationship with the school - it can be frustrating if you don't agree with the way they are handling things, but working together will help you get the right support for your child
  • be patient but persistent - schools have processes in place; it may feel as though progress is slow at times, so persistently following up with the school is the best way to ensure you are informed and action is being taken
  • don't be afraid to ask for supportive measures for your child if they're struggling - e.g. a timeout card, school counselling, introduction of a buddy system etc.
  • familiarise yourself with the school's anti-bullying policy - all schools are legally required to have an anti-bullying policy in place. Familiarising yourself with this may help in your interactions with the school
  • manage school attendance and refusal - depending on the nature or level of the bullying, it can be a good idea to try to keep your child in school, as taking time off can make it harder for them to return. However, in some situations it’s very understandable that your child may want to take time off to keep themselves emotionally or physically safe – and this can be really difficult for you to manage as a parent. If you are keeping your child at home due to safety concerns, speak to the school’s safeguarding lead/officer and follow the steps above to make the problem clear to the school
  • escalate to more senior leadership if things are not improving
  • escalate to the governors if you are feeling unsupported by the school - you should be able to find their contact details on the school's website. If they're not available, you can request them from the school

How to support your child if they are being bullied

  • be clear that they are not alone – let your child know that feeling bullied is not something they have to face alone, and that you want to help them get support
  • ask your child about the good things that happened in their school day – try to use this information to frame their days in the most positive way possible, while also acknowledging what they’re going through
  • encourage and support your child in developing interests and friendships outside of school – this may help increase their resilience and give them something to look forward to
  • don’t be upset if your child wants to talk to other adults or friends about the bullying – as long as they are talking to someone, it is a positive thing
  • involve your child in the decisions you make – e.g. ‘How would you like me to take this problem forward?’ or ‘Is there a particular teacher you would prefer me to talk to?’
  • find professional help for your child – if you’re worried that the bullying is having an impact on your child’s mental health or wellbeing, you can seek counselling for them through your GP or the school
  • make time for yourself – it’s really distressing to see your child struggling. You are best placed to help if you are well yourself, so make sure you think about how you can look after yourself and try to get help from your own support network

Where to get help

If you are worried about the mental health of a child or young person, you can visit the find help for parents section on our website.

If you think your child might be anxious about school. read our guide on supporting your child with school anxiety.

Have a look at our guide on school refusal for advice on what to do if your child is refusing to go to school.

If you are worried about a child or young person under the age of 25 and would like to talk to one of our trained advisers, you can call our Parents Helpline for free.

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