Child Bullying

by Liat Hughes Joshi
Reviewed by Dr Sheri Jacobson

According to anti-bullying charity Ditch the Label's yearly survey, around 22 per cent of UK children and young people experienced bullying in 2019.

If your child is being bullied, it can be upsetting for them, but also hard for you as a parent to know how to help. Here is some advice on ways to support them.

1. Spot the signs.

Is your child being more withdrawn or anxious than usual? Not wanting to go to school? Coming home with unexplained cuts or bruises, or damage to their clothes or property?

With cyber bullying, signs include your child going online much more or less than normal, or trying to hide their devices so that you can’t see what’s happening.

Remember that child bullying can be verbal, emotional or physical, and can happen online, face-to-face or both.

2. Encourage your child to open up.

They might not always want to tell you what’s going on, maybe because they’re embarrassed, don’t like to worry you, or think that they’ll be bullied even more if the perpetrator finds out they have told you.

If you think your child is being bullied, help them feel comfortable discussing it by reassuring them that whatever they say, you will help them.

Talk about any childhood experiences you have of being bullied to see if that helps them open up. If they really won’t discuss things with you, is there an older cousin, aunt or uncle they might chat about it with?

3. Listen, reassure and document.

Listen carefully to what has been going on, and get a good take on the specifics of the situation. Make sure your child feels heard and provide them with reassurance.

Once they have had a chance to offload initially, create a record of incidents and update this if the bullying is on-going. This will be helpful when discussing the bullying with your child’s school.

4. Don’t approach the other child’s parents.

It’s understandable that you might feel you want to tackle the situation of child bullying directly with the bully’s parents. This is rarely wise though, as too often they will not recognise that their child has done anything wrong, and will blame yours, or minimise events.

It is far more effective and wise to approach the school (or whoever runs the setting the bullying occurred in, e.g. a sports coaching session). Never be tempted to approach the bullying child – it’s just not appropriate.

5. For minor incidents, help your child plan how to tell their teacher.

If your child is comfortable doing so, encourage them to talk to an appropriate teacher themselves, by rehearsing what they could say. You could even role play this.

6. When discussing bullying with the school, keep calm and open-minded.

For more serious issues or for younger children, go in yourself and talk to their teacher, form tutor or head of year.

The school website will have a policy on dealing with bullying and the procedure for reporting incidents should be included.

Take a diary with you detailing specifics and try to stay calm and open-minded to the fact that what your child said has happened might not reflect the reality – no matter how reliable they are normally.

7. Still not resolved? How to take things further...

Schools tend to be rather better at dealing with bullying than they were a generation ago. But if, after allowing time for the staff to find out more and take appropriate action, you’re still not happy that the situation is being dealt with? Check the school’s bullying policy for next steps.

You might also find the Gov.Uk "Guide to Bullying at School" helpful. It includes advice on bullying and the law, when to contact local authorities, and a list of charities that can help.

Struggling to parent and wish you had some unbiased support? Why not treat yourself to a counsellor who understands? Find a therapist you like at a price that suits your budget and make this the week you move forward.

Liat Hughes Joshi is a London-based journalist, author and commentator. She has written five parenting books including “How to Unplug Your Child” (Summersdale). Find her at @liathughesjoshi on Twitter and Instagram.

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