Talking to your child about bullying

Trying to have a conversation with your child about bullying is not always easy but necessary. We have compiled some guidance to help you and your family.  

Summary points 

  • Keep it general 
  • Having an appropriate conversations
  • The importance of communication
man and son

Keep it general 

There is no need to make the initial conversation about bullying too formal or complicated. When you are busy making the dinner or watching a storyline, you could bring up a bullying scenario and ask your child what they think. This will be a good starting point to discuss bullying in general and in more depth. 

Explain to your child in simple terms what bullying is. Although there is no legal definition, it is usually defined as repeated behaviour, which is intended to hurt someone either emotionally or physically, and is often aimed at certain people because of their race, religion, gender or sexual orientation or any other aspect such as appearance or disability. 

Watch our video on how to talk to your child about bullying 

Talking to a younger child 

How you approach this conversation is age dependant. If you have a young child you may want to use a picture book or their favourite TV show to help illustrate your point. This will give them an insight into how others treat people and what to do if someone does cause them distress, such as telling mum, dad, or a teacher at school.

Talking to an older child 

If the child is older, you can use scenarios of bullying that have happened in real life such as on TV or in a magazine. You may want to use our interactive anti-bullying video so they can understand what options they may have. You can talk about online bullying, social bullying or bullying at school. Ask your child what they would do if they were bullied, how they would react and what they would want to happen, this can be a great way to let them know what steps to take such as confide in someone they trust, collect screenshots or keep a diary of incidents. They may also want to talk about bullying they may have seen at school. 

The importance of communication

Keeping up with what is going on in your child's life can help you spot where a situation might arise or if there is an issue, your child might be dealing with without telling you. Taking an active interest in what your child gets up to can give them lots of reassurance, even if they don’t show it! Try to keep up with how they are feeling, who their friends are, their social media or online activity and what is happening at school. This can really help to strengthen the bond between you and help your child feel confident and want to confide in you about their life and their world 

Are you worried your child is being bullied? 

Children often find it hard to talk about bullying because they may feel humiliated, ashamed or they might be scared of reprisals. You may see signs such as anxiety to go to school, saying they are ill, bruises that are unexplained or they may isolate themselves socially or online.

If you suspect that your child is being bullied, asking your child outright may not get them to open up to what is happening. You know your child better than anyone else, so trust your instincts about taking the best approach. They may not be ready to talk about it, so take small steps and let them know that you are there for them and can help them no matter what. Reassure them that you won't jump in and take action without discussing it with them first. This can go a long way to getting your child to confide in you.

Are you worried your child is bullying others?

You may have had a call from the school or heard something about your child bullying others. It is important not to react with anger but to calmly find out as much information as you can before taking any action.

Once you have the facts, have a chat with your child and ask them for their version of events. It is important not to jump to any conclusions or take a defensive stance. We do understand that there are instances when a child is punished for retaliating and the child that instigated the situation may have gone unpunished, as the teacher did not see it or they have been falsely accused. However, there are also many times when a child is bullying another individual and his or her behaviour has to be challenged. If you believe that your child has acted in this way, talk to them about bullying, the impact this can have and find out why or what was the reasons behind their behaviour. Have they been bullied before or has there been issues at outside of school? Do they have a new friendship group that perhaps is not a positive influence? It's crucial to find out as much information as you can in a calm way and work with the school to get this resolved.


This page was updated on May 2021

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