If you suspect that your child is being bullied - perhaps by people in school or where they play or through messages online or mobile phone - you may spot one or more of these signs:
- showing stress - being moody, silent or crying, or bullying a younger sibling or friend
- making excuses to miss school, such as stomach complaints or headaches (or your child may be skipping school altogether)
- seems upset after using the internet or mobile, or changes their behaviour – for example, no longer wanting to look at new text messages immediately – and being secretive and unwilling to talk about their online activities and phone use
- is withdrawn in their behaviour
- has more bruises or scrapes than usual
- changes their eating habits
- has torn clothes, school things that are broken or missing, or have 'lost' money
- sleeps badly
- if young, begins wetting the bed
There could, of course, be a number of reasons for this behaviour. So you need to ask yourself, could there be anything else bothering your child? Are there are changes in your family life, such as: a new baby, or divorce or separation?
What can parents and carers do to help?
- Although schools have a key role to play, it is hugely important that those closest to your children are able to help and support them.
- You can help by providing lots of opportunities to talk with you in an open and honest way.
- It's also important to respond in a positive and accepting manner. Let your child know it's not his or her fault, and that he or she did the right thing by telling you.
- Ask your child what he or she thinks should be done. What's already been tried?
- What worked and what didn't? Keep them involved in finding a solution.
- Seek help from your child's teacher or the school guidance counsellor. Most bullying occurs on playgrounds, in lunchrooms, and bathrooms, on school buses or in unsupervised halls. Ensure that the school enforces anti bullying guidelines.
- Don't encourage your child to fight back. Instead, suggest that he or she try walking away to avoid the bully, or that they seek help from a teacher, coach, or other adult.
- Help your child practice what to say to the bully so he or she will be prepared the next time. Of course a child may already be using various self protection techniques themselves – so you can ask them what they do in such a situation and how well it works
- Help your child practise being assertive. The simple act of insisting that the bully leave him alone may have a surprising effect. Explain to your child that the bully's true goal is to get a response.
- Encourage your child to be with friends when travelling back and forth from school, during shopping trips, or on other outings. Bullies are less likely to pick on a child in a group.
- Get Internet savvy. Most schools having access to free technology and more than 90% of secondary school pupils own mobile phones, the high-tech world is here to stay.
If your child becomes withdrawn, depressed or reluctant to go to school, or if you see a decline in school performance, additional consultation or intervention may be required. A child and adolescent psychiatrist or other mental health professional can help your child and family and the school develop a strategy to deal with the bullying. Seeking professional assistance earlier can lessen the risk of lasting emotional consequences for your child.
“My child is the bully”
For information on what to do if your child is a bully, see
Children who bully are not the problem. They are children who have problems either in terms of the way they have experienced human relationships, or have been taught to relate through a lack of checks and balances on behaviour which parents, teachers or significant adults have primary responsibility for.
Where to go for help
In your child’s school, teachers, guidance counsellors and the principal are there to
support your child. You can also seek support from them in dealing with bullying. All
schools should have an anti-bullying policy outlining their approach to dealing with the issue. Parents can also raise concerns about bullying with the school’s board of
Parentline 1890 927 277 is there to provide listening support to parents dealing with a range of different issues
More support and information about bullying is available here:
- Anti-Bullying Research and Resource Centre, Trinity College Dublin. http://www.abc.tcd.ie Tel: 01 896 2573
- ISPCC - 29 Lower Baggot Street, Dublin 2; Tel: (01) 6767960
- Bullying Helpline - (24 hours) Tel: (0502) 20598
For children, Childline is here to support and listen
- Call 1800 66 66 66 (24 hours a day)
- text “Talk” to 50101 (2-10pm everyday)
- Log on to www.childline.ie where you can leave a message or use the one-to-one live web chat.