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What to do if your child is bullied

Playground bullying
Bullying can completely spoil a child's experience of school and learning – follow this advice to help your child through this difficult experience.

When it comes to sending our children to school, for most of us the top concern is not whether they will do well but whether they will be happy.

When a child comes home and says they have been bullied it can leave a parent with a range of emotions – from anger to worry. And no wonder: bullying often leaves a child mentally scarred and, in extreme cases, feeling suicidal. It can completely ruin a child’s experience and memory of school, as many adults bullied as children can testify.

One parent told the charity Family Lives (formerly Parentline Plus): “My daughter left a distressing note on our bed one night telling us that she was being bullied at school. A survey had been done in her class by one of the girls to find out ‘who hated her’. They then gave her the finished survey, which devastated her.”

Different types of bullying

When Bullying UK carried out The National Bullying Survey in 2006, they were shocked to find that 69 percent of children had complained of bullying with each suffering on average six different types. Types can include name-calling, making threats, spreading rumours or telling lies to get the person into trouble, stealing their possessions or ostracising a child from their friends.

“Bullies are exploiting new methods of technology like mobile phones and social networking websites to target their victims,” Liz Carnell of Bullying UK adds. “Cyber-bullying can actually be worse than traditional forms of bullying because the humiliation is so public when the website address is passed around to hundreds of people at school.”

Getting the bullying to stop

If your child tells you they are being bullied, explain that it is not acceptable behaviour and that you will do what you can to get the bullying to stop.

  • Listen to your child's fears and reassure them that it is not their fault and that this is not something that they will face alone.
  • Don't pressurise them to talk to you.
  • Give them ideas of who else they could talk to – a relative, a teacher, or your GP – if they find it difficult to talk to you.
  • Praise and encourage them to help them build up their confidence.
  • Keep a bullying report with written details of incidents and, if known, the names of perpetrators.
  • Do not accept that repeated verbal abuse is teasing and not bullying – the important difference is whether it is distressing your child.
  • Ensure that the school takes action and follow up each key step until you are satisfied.
  • Keep notes of meetings, copies of letters and record details of phone calls.
  • If you are not happy with a teacher's response, speak to someone else – perhaps another teacher or the head teacher.
  • Always discuss your course of action with your child before you go ahead.  They may be scared of aggravating their bully.
  • Never tell a child who is being bullied to ‘just ignore it’. If that were possible, they wouldn’t be asking you for help.
  • Never tell a bullied child to hit back or they risk being punished themself. Discuss other ways in which they could stand up for themselves instead.
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