Bullying is any form of ongoing intimidation of someone. It’s easy to think of bullying as something that only happens among children or teenagers.

ReachOut Parents Youth Mental Health But, it can happen anywhere that people interact: school, college, work, at home and even in relationships.

Bullying behaviour can include:

  • Verbal – face-to-face or written and be a form of sexual harassment
  • Physical – any unwanted form of physical contact or threatened contact, including having belongings broken or stolen
  • Social – being ignored, left out of situations or having rumours spread about you
  • Psychological – often quite indirect and can include manipulation, unpredictable behaviour or dirty looks etc.
  • Cyber – this does not generally happen in isolation, but as part of traditional bullying.

Signs your son or daughter is being bullied

Often people being bullied won’t talk about the situation straight away. Signs your son or daughter is being bullied include:

  • frequently feeling well – tummy bugs, headaches
  • changing method of getting to school
  • skipping school or unwillingness to go to school
  • aggressive behaviour with family members – bullying siblings
  • irritability
  • unexplained injuries
  • clothes or belongings that are damaged or go missing
  • lack of motivation
  • dropping out of activities, they previously enjoyed
  • decreased grades
  • general anxiety.

These things don’t necessarily mean they are being bullied, but if you notice some of these signs it might be worth keeping an eye out.

What you should do if your child is being bullied

Try to stay calm and not over-personalise the situation. Stress is a normal reaction, but it won’t make anything any easier.

Encourage discussion and try to find out what’s happening and more importantly, how your son or daughter sees the situation: what’s their point of view?

Talk and listen

Believe what your son or daughter tells you. This will help them trust you to help. Reassure them it’s not their fault. There is still a stigma attached to bullying and some young people feel they have brought it upon themselves.

Try not to ask too many questions. Remind them being bullied isn’t about being weak and being a bully isn’t about being strong.

Praise your son/daughter

Tell them they are doing the right thing by talking to you about it.

Reassure them

Make them aware they’re not alone. Explain that many people experience bullying at some point in their lives and sometimes it’s inevitable.

Communication skills

Teach them about different styles of communication and how to be more assertive. Let them know it’s OK to say no and be true to their own needs and feelings.

Getting involved

Encourage them to get involved in positive social activities. This can help build confidence and self-esteem.

In school

If your son or daughter is in school, open a dialogue with the school. They should have policies to deal with bullying and need to know it’s going on. Let them know you’re prepared to deal with this in a positive way, but that you won’t tolerate the bullying.

Before you approach the school, list all the facts. You’ll need as much information as possible. Gather what happened, who was involved, when it occurred, who witnessed it, anything your son/daughter did that may have provoked the incident, whether it was a one-off or a series of events.

Don’t arrive at the school unexpectedly. Make an appointment with the class teacher or principal.

Avoid accusing the school. They may be unaware of the bullying.

Give specific examples of how your son/daughter is being bullied.

Discuss what action the school will take. Be patient, allow the school time to deal with the problem but stay in touch with them. Arrange a follow up with the school to see how the situation is being resolved.

Outside of school

If your son or daughter is out of school, or being bullied by people with no connection to their school you won’t necessarily have the structure of an institution to help you.

It’s therefore important your son or daughter knows you’re there to support them. Work on confidence building with them and their ability to effectively communicate.

What if your son or daughter is a bully?

If your child is bullying someone else, don’t be too quick to judge or condemn them. Don’t ignore the situation either.

Aside from the wellbeing of whomever they’re bullying, bullies often have issues or problems of their own that may need dealing with.

There can be many reasons why someone bullies, including:

  • low self-esteem
  • anger at something in their own lives
  • a need for control, especially if they find other areas of life hard
  • trying to impress peers
  • being a victim of bullying themselves
  • having parents or siblings who bully
  • a lack of parental/guardian attention
  • a lack of empathy towards others.

What can you do to try and resolve the behaviour?

  • find out what happened
  • try to find the cause of the behaviour
  • have your son or daughter make amends
  • involve the school
  • look at what’s going on at home, is there anything that could be negatively affecting them?
  • encourage empathy and understanding of the victim
  • Try to approach the situation as calmly as possible. Open communication and discussion rather than jumping to conclusions or accusations will hopefully make things a little easier to deal with.

If you feel you need it, there is face-to-face help available. Remember, bullying is a behaviour, not a trait. There is a lot that can be done to stop someone from bullying.

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