Bullying can be one of the most challenging experiences for children and parents to go through. The following information and signposting will help support you.

As parents we all want our children to enjoy their school days without fear of bullying.

There is so much talk of bullying in the news, and many of us will have experienced bullying ourselves as children, or know children that have gone through or are going through a bullying situation.

The good news is that there is help available and there are practical steps you can take to keep your child safe.

Download our Dealing with Bullying poster 

If you find out your child is being bullied, you’re likely to feel scared, anxious and worried. You can follow these simple steps to support your child, get the situation under control, and be a good friend.

How to spot bullying 

Bullying is any behaviour that is intended to hurt, is repeated, and where the person or people on the receiving end find it hard to defend themselves. It can happen anywhere — in school, at work, online, on the bus, on the street or in the park. It takes many forms — verbal, emotional, physical and sexual.

While offline bullying in itself is not a criminal offence, some bullying behaviour can constitute a crime, such as physical and sexual assault, threats to hurt or kill, or encouraging someone to hurt themselves.

We also know that children with a real or perceived difference, such as disabled children and those with special educational needs, young people identifying as LGBT+ or seen by their peers as not conforming to perceived gender norms’, young carers, looked after children, children with disfigurement, minority race and faith groups and children that have been bereaved can be more vulnerable to bullying.

There are some common signs and symptoms that may suggest your child is going through a bullying situation. These could include:

  • Reluctance to attend school, youth clubs or social events
  • Withdrawing and isolating themselves
  • Frequent unexplained illness (e.g. tummy upsets, headaches)
  • Changes in behaviour and mood
  • Changes in dress or activities or stopping doing things they used to love
  • Becoming sad and withdrawn or unusually aggressive, or perhaps even demonstrating bullying behaviour to siblings or others
  • Bed wetting, sleeping or eating less
  • Hair loss
  • Showing signs of distress or anxiety after using mobile phones or tablets
  • Becoming unusually secretive, not wanting to talk about their day or hiding their activity online

Underneath these behaviours could be a child who is struggling with negative feelings, such as feeling worthless or lost through bullying experiences.

What to do if you think your child is being bullied 

First and foremost try not to be overly anxious

Many children go through bullying situations and with the right support they will bounce back. Relationships can be very volatile in the school years, and children like adults can be cruel. Let your child know that if you are always there for them, and together you will sort it out.

Make sure your child knows their worth and the worth of others

Always remind your child that they are precious, that they are worthy of respect and kindness, and that any difference is their unique strength. It is equally important to model respectful and kind relationships as a parent, and to encourage your child to look out for others who may be lonely and sad.

If your child is being bullied, stay calm

They may be very reluctant to tell anyone at first so keep the lines of communication open, gently reminding them they can always share anything that may be worrying them. Let them know that you are there for them, but understand that sometimes they may need to get advice from another adult they trust and that is okay too. If they do tell you they are being bullied, let them know that it is not their fault, there is a way through, and that together you will sort it out.

Keep a diary

Keeping a log of events is a good way of establishing what is happening and important for any meetings with the school.

Talk to the school

Schools have a legal duty to keep your child safe from bullying. If the bullying is happening in school, or involves children from your child’s school then the sooner they are informed, the sooner they can help. You may feel angry and hurt about what has happened to your child but again it is important to stay calm, and remember that the main goal is always to work together to stop the bullying behaviour. The more you show willing to work with the school the better.

Bullying online

If the bullying is online, but involves children from the school then still tell the school. Headteachers have powers to discipline pupils for bullying behaviour outside of school hours and are expected to take cyberbullying seriously. You may also want to report bullying and harassing behaviour to the social media provider (for more advice visit Internet Matters or Childnet International). Also see our specific section on cyberbullying. 

This article discusses a new book Bully-proof kids’ by Stella O’Malley that offers practical help for parents.

What do I do if it’s not working?

If the school is not taking action, or you feel it’s ineffective, then take further action. Bullying by law is a safeguarding issue and so you can contact the local children’s services team for advice. 

You may also want to take your child to the GP for medical advice, and explore options for additional support in your area such as counselling services. There are also a number of charities that can offer advice and support such as Kidscape, Family Lives, Contact a Family (for parents and carers of disabled children) and Young Minds.


It is equally important to model respectful and kind relationships as a parent, and to encourage your child to look out for others who may be lonely and sad

Practical tips 

For many years Kidscape have run ZAP assertiveness workshops to help children that are experiencing or have been impacted by bullying behaviour. Considering ways of using your body language and speech to manage difficult situations can be helpful, as the more your child can feel empowered the better able they will be to handle a bullying situation.

It is also important to help your child identify who and what is good in their life at this time, and can help them get through this situation. For example, looking for other ways of making friends outside of school can be helpful.

What to do if your child is bullying others 

This can be just as hard as finding out your child is experiencing bullying. It is natural to want to defend your child, and it can be hard not to take it personally. It is important to stay calm and to listen to your child, but to accept that we are all capable of bullying behaviour. 

The priority is to understand what is driving their action (some children bully others in retaliation, because of their own stress levels or because of peer influence) so that your child understands the harm they have caused and why it has to stop. For more advice visit Kidscape.

Social media bullying 

Cyberbullying can often start with a disagreement or bullying in school between students. 

Parenting in the digital age is challenging and can be overwhelming, but it has a positive side too. Social media offers us all unprecedented access to global connection, information, fun, support and friendship. 

It is an integral part of all our lives but especially in the lives of young people, in a way that it wasn’t for many parents when we were growing up.

Despite social platforms having a 13+ minimum age requirement, research tells us that more than 50% of children have used a social network by the age of 10 and 71% of 9–17 year olds visit a social media site at least one a week’ (Edustaff).

Whilst there are many positives about social media, there is a darker side, which parents need to be aware of.

Cyberbullying (aka trolling) is defined as any form of bullying that takes place using an electronic device. It can happen through messaging apps, gaming sites or social media platforms. 

Bullying online is as damaging (if not more so) as all other types of face to face bullying, and recent research by The Guardian suggests that one in five children in England and Wales experienced online bullying.

The worst thing about cyber bullying is that it can be spread amongst many people very quickly and can even go viral’ in a matter of minutes. 

What can you do?

  • Talk to your child as soon as possible. Find out what is happening. Don’t delay, the sooner you can put light on the situation, the sooner it can be tackled
  • Ask to see your child’s social media platforms and see what’s happening. Frequency is key: Snapchat messages, for example, disappear after 24 hours
  • Take screenshots of all the messages for evidence, block the person and then report the account to the relevant social media platform
  • Report harmful content to this organisation, Report Harmful Content, and they will help to get it removed
  • Report the bullying to the school immediately. Schools have a legal responsibility to investigate all bullying by their pupils as they are legally responsible for student welfare even outside of a school’s physical boundaries
  • Report the bullying to the police or social services, as it is illegal. Make sure you have lots of evidence that your child is being cyberbullied
  • Remind your child that it is never their fault, they should not self blame. Know this for yourself too. It is nobody’s fault except the bullies