Bullying affects parents too

Parents Mental Health
29 January 2019
Zoe Williams
Zoe Williams is a parent of two daughters with food allergies and chair of the PTA at their primary school. She is passionate about promoting inclusion for children with food allergies, and is the author of Kindle bestseller, The Busy Parent’s Guide to Food Allergies and writes a blog My Allergy Kitchen”. 
It’s well-known that being bullied can have a negative impact on a child, but less well discussed is the impact on the wider family. Bullying affects parents too, and we don’t talk enough about it.

One of the biggest worries for parents is that their child will be bullied. When that fear is realised, it can be a very stressful and distressing experience for the parent as well as the child. Nobody wants to see their child hurt and distressed. You want to keep your child safe from all harm. All you want to do is make the bullying stop.

It felt like I was in a one woman battle against the school.”

I felt very alone.”

You believe you are not helping your child.”

These are all statements shared by parents that Kidscape have supported. Feelings of powerlessness, shame, isolation and frustration are very common in parents whose children are being bullied. It can make you feel like you haven’t done a good job. It can make you feel like there’s nobody who can help you. It can feel like you’re banging your head against a brick wall trying to get someone to listen. And if bullying is causing your child to become isolated and is impacting on their mental health, it can be terrifying.

Parenting a child going through a bullying situation is difficult, but with the right support you will get through it, which why Kidscape work with the parents as well as children to effectively handle bullying situations. It’s essential that the whole family is empowered and supported, and knows what to do.

Here are some tips if your child is being bullied:

1. Work as a team. Be patient, calm and understanding. Ask your child what they want to happen, and agree how you’ll deal with it together.

2. Stay calm. It can be tempting to go in with all guns blazing, and confront the school, the parent of the child doing the bullying, or even the child. You may also think about telling your child to fight back. Although these are natural reactions, they’re likely to make the situation worse. Experience tells us you are more likely to isolate those that can help you, and put your child at risk of being seen as the problem.

3. Document everything. Keep a log of bullying incidents that have happened to your child and who was involved. If bullying occurs online, keep screenshots.

4. Be persistent. Be clear with the school about your expectations and ensure they’re met. Escalate where necessary: for example, if nothing has been changed after speaking to your child’s form tutor, their head of year would be the next person to talk to.

5. Be kind to yourself. Take time to remind yourself that this is not your fault. Handling bullying is a journey, and there is no magic wand to make it stop. Remember, just because it may take time for the situation to change, that doesn’t mean you aren’t doing what’s best.

6. Ask for help. There’s a lot of support for parents out there. Kidscape provides advice on their website, an advice line for parents and carers if you need support and guidance, and free family anti-bullying workshops to explore and practice assertiveness and confidence in a safe environment — and you’ll meet other families who are in the same boat.

My parents aren’t constantly worrying about what’s happening at school, so I guess we have a lot more fun now” said a child whose family was supported by Kidscape.

You might feel like you and your child are lost in a maze when bullying happens. Please remember there’s always a path through, and don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help.

For help with bullying visit kidscape.org.uk

Contact Kidscape’s Parent Advice Line on 020 7823 5430