Finding out that your child is being bullied can be devastating as a parent, but it is important that you act with sense and clarity. Taking the appropriate steps can help to save your child from greater suffering. You may wish to try some of the following suggestions to help your child if you find out that they are being bullied.
Speaking to your Child about the Bullying. If you suspect that your child is being bullied, then it is a good idea to speak to them about it. You may need to adopt a subtle approach at first, because children may feel as though you are attacking them if you are too direct. Sharing your experiences or the experiences of someone who they relate to (a celebrity or favourite storybook character) can help them to open up to you.
If your child does open up to you about their experiences of being bullied, you should listen carefully and make sure that you understand what they are saying to you. Do not impose your own feelings into the situation, because this can make things worse for your child. Getting visibly angry or upset with the situation can cause your child to feel worried about tell you any more details. Try not to jump to any conclusions, because your child may feel like you are not listening to them properly.
Support your Child’s Choices. Ask your child how they would like you to proceed and discuss any options with them before you take action. Be careful not to be dismissive of their feelings or the way that they are currently dealing with the situation. Questioning why they haven’t fought back or trying to reassure them that it is part of growing up can be very upsetting for a child who has chosen to open up to you. Although it can be tempting to try to take matters into your own hands, you must never confront the bullies yourself or try to directly involve their parents without the support of the school. Encourage your child to speak to a trusted adult at the school at a time that is good for them, rather than marching straight into the head teacher’s office yourself. You can offer to accompany your child if they need support with talking to the school.
Some children may want to talk about bullying with another adult (non-parent) who is not from the school. Do not be offended if your child chooses to talk to another adult instead of (or in addition) to you. Godparents, aunts, uncles or trusted family friends can all help to give your child a different perspective on the situation. Charities like Childline also provide excellent resources for children who want to discuss bullying with an unknown adult. Some children will prefer to talk to a third party, because they are worried that the bullying will upset their parents too much. If your child wants to speak to another person, then you should make sure that you support their choice.
Getting support from the school. Every school in the United Kingdom should have its own anti-bullying policy. You can ask to see or discuss this policy if your child is having trouble. It is better to make an appointment to discuss the issue, rather than simply turning up unannounced. Making an appointment to speak about the issue will give the school chance to prepare for your arrival which can help you to work together to solve the problem.
Arranging a meeting will also give you the opportunity to produce a list of all of the facts. Create a diary of any incidents that your child has told you about. You should try to include dates, times, details of the incident and whether anyone witnessed it.
Do not try to blame the school unless there is obvious evidence of negligence or fault in the case. Bullies can be very clever and they will do what they need to do to avoid detection. Some teachers look after as many as 35 children at a time, so it can be very hard for them to know everything that is going on with every pupil. Be patient with the school and try to work with them rather than against them. Make a plan and agree to follow up with them at pre-arranged intervals.
Peer Support Groups. Some schools offer peer support groups for children who are suffering from bullying. These groups are made up of other children who have been trained in listening and counselling other people who are the same age. Primary schools sometimes encourage playground buddies to offer support to other children who are being bullied. If your child’s school offers these services, you can discuss the merits of these groups with your child to encourage them to seek the support that is available.