Dealing with bullying and getting support

Bullying can make your child's life a misery, but there are ways you can help stop it and organisations you can contact for support

Dealing with bullying

Bullying is unacceptable. If your child is being bullied at school, there should be procedures to support you. There are also organisations that offer help, information and advice if you need it.

Identifying bullying

Bullying can be defined as the use of power to hurt, harm or affect the rights and needs of a person or people.

It can include:

  • teasing, abusive remarks and name calling
  • threats and physical violence
  • damage to property
  • leaving pupils out of social activities deliberately
  • spreading rumours
  • upsetting mobile phone or email messages - this can be called 'cyberbullying'

If your child is being bullied

Your child may not say that they are being bullied but may show signs such as headaches, temper or anxiety. They may not want to go to school.

If you suspect they are being bullied, try talking to them about:

  • their progress with school work
  • friends at school
  • what they do at lunchtimes and breaks
  • any problems they are facing

It can be very upsetting to find that your child is being bullied. If this happens, try to talk calmly to them about what is happening.

You can:

  • make a note of what they say, who was involved, where, when and how often?
  • reassure your child that they have done the right thing by telling you
  • tell your child to report any further incidents to a teacher straightaway
  • talk to your child's teacher

Cyberbullying

Two thirds of all bullying is spoken or written. It is often done by text messages, on internet chat rooms or by instant messaging. Bullying can be subtle but most children know who is doing it to them.

If your child is getting bullied you can:

  • get them to show you the messages and to tell you at once when anything new happens
  • tell them never to respond to an internet bully or to abusive text messages
  • make sure they stick to moderated chat rooms
  • tell them that bullying usually stops once they tell other people about it
  • if bullying or abuse starts in a chat room, encourage your children to leave immediately and tell you - you can then contact the moderator
  • tell them never to give out their contact details online or put photographs of themselves up on websites

Talking to teachers about bullying

When you talk to your child's teacher, remember they may have no idea your child is being bullied.

Try to stay calm and:

  • find out what the anti- bullying policy is – every school should have one
  • give details of what your child says has happened - give names, dates and places
  • make a note of what action the school will take
  • ask if there is anything you can do to help
  • stay in touch with the school - let them know if the problem continues or if the situation improves

If you have spoken to the school and the bullying doesn’t stop, or if you are not happy with the way it is being dealt with, you can refer the matter to the Public Services Ombudsman for further investigation. You should note however, that the Ombudsman’s office will not consider cases where the school’s established complaints process has not already been tried and exhausted. 

Further information about the way in which a complaint can be made can be obtained through the NI Public Services Ombudsman.

If your child is bullying others

If your child is bullying, they could be copying people in the family or perhaps they haven't learned better ways of mixing with their friends. Friends may be encouraging bullying, or your child may be going through a difficult time and acting out aggressive feelings.  

To stop your child bullying:

  • explain that what they are doing is unacceptable and is making other children unhappy
  • discourage other members of your family from using aggression or force to get what they want
  • show your child how they can join in without bullying
  • talk to your child's teacher about how you can work together
  • check regularly with your child about how things are going at school
  • give your child lots of praise when they are co-operative and kind to other people

Bullying: getting support

If you have spoken to your child’s teachers and school and the bullying doesn’t stop, or you are not happy with the way the school is dealing with it, you can refer the matter to the Public Services Ombudsman for further investigation. You should note however, that the Ombudsman’s office will not consider cases where the school’s established complaints process has not already been tried and exhausted. 

Further information about the way in which a complaint can be made can be obtained through the NI Public Services Ombudsman.

The following organisations offer support, advice and information.

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