What can we do about bullying?

Bullying is a great concern of any parent, at some point we have all witnessed or been a victim of bullying, and the thought of your beautiful child suffering is sometimes hard to face. So how do you know if your child is being bullied? How do you help them cope and become resilient? And what can you do at home? Sarah Ingram, head of Parenting and Development shares some pointers.

How can I spot the signs of bullying?

Signs of bullying can be hard to spot, however if you notice any change in your child’s behaviour towards the negative, these could be strong indications. Has your child become quiet and withdrawn? Do they suddenly want to take sick days? Are they keeping their head down at the school gates? These could all be signs they are the target of bullying.

If your child is under stress this may manifest in changed behaviour at home, try to bear this in mind and create lots of positive opportunities for quality ‘one-to-one’ time with them, give them things to look forward to at the weekend or after school, spend time with them playing a game rather than cleaning the house.

How can I know about cyber bullying?

The fact is you can’t unless your child, or a friend of your child tells you. If your child has a mobile phone and is on social media they maybe being bullied online, and it isn’t as simple as coming off Facebook, or blocking friends, there are many complex relationships and dynamics at play, but getting them to open up about what they do online is the first step.

How can I help talk to them about cyber bullying?

Do your research, find out about cyber bullying, and try to bring it into the conversation, maybe using a news story as a ‘hook’, when you are having some calm family time. Your child may open up about things going on around them if they feel it’s safe and non-judgemental, and if they do you can discuss it with them in an age appropriate way. Do not get angry with them or another child, they need to see that you can cope with the issue of bullying too. Try ‘how does that make you feel?’, or ‘it must be hard to see your friend treated like this’ and ‘what do you think makes bullies act this way?’ By opening up the conversation you are creating a safe place for them to confide in you.

How can I help reduce the suffering?

Prevent your children from taking their phone up to bed with them, they need space to get away from the digital world and switch off, which they may find hard when it is right in front of them. Put strong boundaries in place for where and when they access online socialising, to prevent it becoming all-consuming. If you have younger children start this from the moment they get their first mobile phone. Also by reducing confrontation or conflict at home you can create your child’s ‘safe place’, remember if they are being bullied at school they may need more emotional support at home, and more understanding for mood swings, they need somewhere to go where they are loved, to be reassured that this is not about them, but the bully’s problem. If you have an experience of being bullied or being treated unfairly tell your child about it and how you overcame it, this will help them know they are not alone and that they can talk to you.

How can I prevent it happening at school?

Unfortunately, you can’t be with your child 24/7 and prevent bullying, however by building resilience you can coach your child to deal with it. Explain it is a power play, and they can get rid of the bullying by trying to ignore it, finding a ‘thick skin’ whilst being reassured they can share upset with you. Building their confidence at home will also help them find confidence in other areas, are they good at art? Can they climb well? Let me them feel pride and achievements and help them develop hobbies and make friends outside of school. If you are very concerned, and your child does not want to go to school get in touch with the teacher and make time to visit and talk about the situation to see what they can do.

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