Parents and Carers
It can be worrying if you suspect your child is being bullied or is bullying others. Often it is difficult to know what you can do to help and how to go about doing so. It is fantastic that you are taking an interest and trying to help, and we are confident that there are a number of different ways you can help and support your child.
Use this section to find out the information you need to recognise the signs of bullying; be able to help and support your child through the problems they are having and learn the best ways to broach the subject of bullying with them.
My child is being bullied
Sometimes the effects of bullying are easy to spot even without being told that bullying is taking place. A lot of the time, however, the effects are less obvious. If you are concerned that a young person you know is being bullied there are some physical, emotional and behavioural signs that you can look for. Remember though, there are no signs that will tell you for certain: some bullied young people may display none of these signs, other young people may display them for reasons other than bullying. If you think your child is struggling, never ignore it; begin by making them aware that you are available to support them as much as you can and encourage them to talk about it to you or another trusted adult.
Here is a list we have put together of some physical, emotional and behavioural signs you may see in a child that is being bullied. It is important to remember that this list is not exhaustive but should be used for guidance.
Here are some physical signs to look out for:
- Injuries that a young person cannot, or will not, give a convincing explanation for (e.g. cuts and bruises, pain in arms and legs), particularly if they are often injured and if there seems to be a pattern of when the injuries happen.
- Torn or damaged clothing, (for example, clothing that is extremely dirty, blood-stained or graffitied) without a convincing explanation for how it happened.
- General symptoms of ill health due to stress or complaining of feeling too unwell to go to school. If your child is regularly complaining of feeling unwell (or is regularly sent home early from school due to illness) you should take this seriously, there may be an underlying reason they don’t want to be at school.
- You may notice your child is wetting the bed at night. This can be a symptom of the trauma that bullying induces, particularly in younger children. It is important that you don’t make a child feel even more ashamed by blaming or laughing at them for bedwetting.
Keep an eye out for the following emotional signs:
- Mood swings and apparent changes in personality. Young people who are bullied can react by becoming withdrawn or becoming aggressive themselves and can swing between having too much energy and too little.
- Constant anxiety/nervousness. Your child may always seem on edge and afraid.
- Depression – young people who are being bullied may seem depressed or they may tell you they are feeling unhappy or low.
- Tearfulness for no apparent reason, particularly if he/she gets tearful at the thought of going to meet with friends, going to school/PRU/youth group, or is regularly tearful after a particular activity.
- Lack of confidence and negative self-image. Young people who are being bullied often put themselves down and don’t value their abilities. They may apologise for themselves a lot and automatically assume that they are about to be told off when you approach them.
- Hostility and defensiveness. Young people who are being bullied may complain of feeling picked on. The powerlessness and humiliation that people on the receiving end of bullying often feel can make them very angry and you may find that a child who is being bullied lashes out verbally and physically.
Here are some behavioural signs to look out for:
- Being generally withdrawn.
- Exclusion from group activities. Young people will sometimes exclude themselves from a group because they are experiencing bullying within it or be excluded by a group as part of indirect bullying. This can also be seen as being less active or participating less in lessons, clubs or other group activities.
- Eating disorders and changes in eating habits. You may become worried about your child’s eating habits - perhaps they have suddenly gained or lost a significant amount of weight.
- Alcohol and/or drug use: this can sometimes be a coping mechanism for young people being bullied or a result of peer pressure.
- Self-harming. Young people who are bullied are sometimes driven to self-harming. Be aware that small injuries, cuts, cigarette burns, etc. can be evidence of self-harming.
- Behaving in a disruptive and challenging way or refusing to co-operate with family members, peers or school staff.
- Behaving in a bullying and abusive way towards other people at home or at school.
- Frequently "losing" possessions.
- Often being tired and sleepy or complaining of sleeping badly, or seeming hyperactive with too much energy. Young people who are being bullied often show a lack of concentration.
What can I do?"
When raising the issue of bullying with your child it is important to be in a safe, quiet place where you will not be disturbed.
Below are some top tips to keep in mind when discussing bullying with your child.
- Find a quiet place where you won't be interrupted.
- Explain why you are worried and that you are there to help them in any way. Make sure to emphasize that the most important thing for you is that they are safe and happy.
- Ask them if they are being bullied and if they are, to tell you about it.
- If your child tells you that they are being bullied, remember that it is not an easy thing to talk about or admit to, so praise them for managing to do this. Let them know that many people are bullied, but that that doesn’t make it alright.
- Let them know that if they are being bullied they have a right to get help to stop it, and that you will help them yourself and support them in getting help from other organisations.
- Let them know that you will not go behind their back or do anything to get help without talking to them about it and having their agreement. It is important that you make this commitment and honour it.
- Be prepared to listen without judging, and be sensitive to the child’s needs and fears, e.g. worse bullying from the perpetrators if they discover that the child has "grassed them up".
- Your child may be afraid to tell you about the bullying if they fear your reaction will be negative.
- Encourage and help the child to record and report any incident of bullying that they experience to you and a member of staff at school/PRU, youth club, etc., depending on where it’s happening and who’s doing the bullying.
- If your child is suffering from bullying at a youth club or other organisation it is important that they are made aware of the situation.
- It is important to tell your child to never endanger themselves by standing up to bullies in a situation where they are outnumbered. If scared, you should encourage your child to run to the nearest populated area such as a nearby shop. By removing themselves from the situation, your child is making a positive action and should not be ashamed to do so.
- Be prepared to help your child to make a safety plan to help minimise the risk of being a target by planning safe routes from home to school, etc. If they are being targeted by bullies at home or in your neighbourhood, help them make a safety plan to contact police and get help or get out of the house in an emergency.
BeatBullying never advocate the use of safety plans as an alternative to reporting bullying. It should be used as a tool to help young people who are being bullied in order to make things better for your child in the short term, but it is not enough on its own. You can find an example safety plan to use at the bottom of this document.
If your child tells you who it is that is bullying them, you may be tempted to go and talk to this person or people directly or to speak to their parents/carers. Whilst you mean well, this isn’t usually a good idea. Firstly, this may well make things worse for your child and give the people doing the bullying more to humiliate him/her with. Secondly, if you approach another child or young person and accuse him/her of bullying you may lay yourself open to accusations of threatening behaviour yourself. Wherever possible take action through your child’s school, PRU, youth group, community safety team or your local police service.
There is loads of information and support available at our website www.beatbullying.org. Please do encourage your child to register on the site, which is fully moderated, safe, and endorsed by CEOP, where they have peer mentors, older mentors and qualified counsellors to talk to, as well as a wealth of information. There is also further information for parents, carers, and teachers.
You could also contact the NSPCC's Child Protection Helpline on 0808 800 5000 (it is free to call and lines are open 24- hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week).
If you become alarmed that your child may be being abused but they don’t actually tell you that they are, ask them again what is upsetting them and reassure them that you will help them no matter what the problem is and that you care for them and nothing that they say will change that. If you are caring for the child as a result of existing child protection concerns, report any worries that you have to the child's social worker.
Being bullied is a very stressful and emotional time, and sometimes it can feel like there is no-one that can help. Putting a safety plan in place can enable you and your child to put steps in place, alongside reporting bullying through the appropriate channels, to solve issues of bullying in the short term. By completing the safety plan you will have practical ideas to help when bullying occurs, who to tell, and to put a stop to it.
If your child has experienced or is experiencing bullying, this is a plan to help you stop the bullying and be safe again. It will give you ideas about who can help you, how to get help and practical things that you can do which may help you to avoid being bullied.
My Child is bullying others
If you suspect that your child is bullying others, or have been told that they are, it is bound to be a worrying time for you.
Whilst bullying behaviour is never right, there are lots of genuine reasons why a young person may be bullying others, and as a parent or carer you are in a good position to try and build your child’s self-esteem and find out whether or not they are actually bullying others, and if so, why.
There is no formula that will tell you for sure whether your child is bullying others, but there are several indicators that could help inform you. These indicators are a mixture of physical, emotional and behavioural signs. Remember, no one likes to be accused of bullying, so whilst it is essential that you do address this subject, it is important to do it sensitively and without blame.
Here is some advice and guidance to help you understand whether or not your child might be bullying others.
How to approach the school
Hearing your child is having issues with bullying in or out of school can be a very stressful and emotional time. It is important to remember when raising the issue with the school to remain calm and understand the steps that are needed to be taken to ensure your child’s safety, as well as the safety of any other young people who are involved, and to put an end to the bullying issue.
BeatBullying has put together this downloadable resource to give parents step-by-step guidance and advice when dealing with a school.
If needed, more information can be found about your legal rights when it comes to bullying and about contacting your Local Authority in our ‘Bullying and the Law’ section.
How this site keeps your child safe
BeatBullying is dedicated to keeping your child safe online. In order to do this, through our online service we provide moderation, safeguarding procedures, and encourage those using our site to practice general online safety. Below, we have detailed how we implement our safety procedures and the steps we take to safeguard children effectively.
We strive to create the safest possible online experience for young people. We deploy a highly intelligent and sophisticated piece of software called NetModerator that monitors the website 24-hours-a-day. NetModerator filters content, analyses and reports on the context of the content (all messages and chat that take place on the website). It can even identify the development of inappropriate relationships, including grooming patterns. The system operates in real-time and triggers alerts to our staff when it identifies sharing of personal information, profanity, sexual content, abuse and inappropriate relationships.
In addition, the BeatBullying website is moderated by our staff whenever the chat room is open (8am-2am, seven-days-a-week, 365-days-a-year). They monitor the chat rooms and further ensure the safety of the young people using the site.
All support on BeatBullying is confidential, which means that we will not share the content of conversations on the site unless we feel a young person is at risk. If we are concerned that a child is in danger our Safeguarding procedures will be followed and an external referral to police or social services may be made.