A Guide to Teaching Children About Bullying

By Lucy Wyndham

27th July 2018

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The children’s charity, Childline, reported 24,000 cases related to bullying in the 2016/2017 school year. No parent likes to think of their child being bullied; it can feel like there is already enough to consider when it comes to your child and school. However, it is important to know the signs of potential bullying and what to do should your child experience it.

Bullying comes in all shapes and sizes


Bullying can take on many forms, some more subtle than others. These include physical abuse, verbal threats, emotional abuse and exclusion. Cyber-bullying is sadly increasingly common as a result of social media and rapid technological developments. There also appears to be a link between the type of bullying and gender, with boys experiencing more physical abuse and exposure, and girls experiencing more emotional abuse. Whatever its nature, the profound effect of bullying on one’s wellbeing cannot be underestimated.

Recognising the potential signs of bullying

A lot of children will not feel able to come forward about being bullied, meaning that it can be missed if parents and/or teachers don’t know what to look for. Some signs that your child might be being bullied include:

  1. Repeatedly wanting to stay at home instead of going to school
  2. Lack of appetite or losing weight
  3. Nightmares and trouble going to sleep
  4. A lack of interest in things that he or she usually enjoys doing
  5. Increased anxiety

Talking to your child about bullying

If your child reveals to you that they are being bullied, it is only natural to feel upset and angry. However, try to keep your emotions in check and focus on your child. Remember that it takes a lot of courage for a child to come forward about being bullied, so keeping a cool head is important:

  1. Reassure your child that they’ve done the right thing in confiding in you.
  2. Emphasise that it is the bully who has done wrong and not your child.
  3. Notify your child’s school. Explain to your child beforehand why it is best – and safe – to tell the school.
  4. Discuss with your child how we should react to bullying. Talk about the importance of not retaliating with similar behaviour to the bully. Talk through alternative, more suitable behaviour, such as holding in any anger and walking away, staying with friends with whom they feel safe and confiding in an adult they trust.
  5. Consider together why bullies bully. For example, bullies are often unhappy themselves, seeking attention, and/or might be reacting to a difficult situation at home. Raising this awareness can be an empowering and helpful aid for a child.

Bullying: Knowing the signs and being supportive

Bullying can be a very traumatic experience for children and their parents. What’s more, the many different forms it can take, particularly through online channels, makes children particularly vulnerable to it. This can be a very unsettling thought for parents and school staff alike. However, by knowing what to look out for and being as approachable and supportive to your children as possible, you are giving yourself the best chance possible of keeping them safe. And always try to remember that being made aware that your child is being bullied is the first positive step to putting an end to it appropriately.

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