You know your child best so will be aware if they seem out of sorts. The type of behaviour that could be an indication of bullying include a reluctance to go to school; unexplained tummy upsets or headaches; showing signs of distress on a Sunday night or at the end of school holidays; becoming either quiet or withdrawn, or playing up; torn clothes and missing belongings; seeming upset after using their phone, tablets, computers etc and wanting to leave for school much earlier than necessary or returning home late. Bullying can have am impact on a child's mental health so if your child is showing signs of serious distress - such as depresssion, anxiety and self harm always see a GP.
If your child is being bullied, don't panic. Your key role is listening, calming and providing reassurance that the situation can get better when action is taken.
Listen and reassure them that coming to you was the right thing to do. Try and establish the facts. It can be helpful to keep a diary of events to share with the school or college.
Assure them that the bullying is not their fault and that they have family that will support them. Reassure them that you will not take any action without discussing it with them first.
Don't encourage retaliation to bullying - such as violent actions. It's important for children to avoid hitting or punching an abusive peer. Reacting that way has negative and unpredictable results- they may be hurt even further, and find that they are labelled as the problem. Rather suggest that they walk away and seek help.
Find out what your child wants to happen next. Help to identify the choices open to them; the potential next steps to take; and the skills they may have to help solve the problems.
Encourage your child to get involved in activities that build their confidence and esteem, and help them to form friendships outside of school (or wherever the bullying is taking place).
Discuss the situation with your child's teacher or Head teacher - or the lead adult wherever the bullying is taking place. Every child has a right to a safe environment in which to learn and play. Schools must have a behaviour policy which sets out the measures that will be taken to prevent all forms of bullying between pupils. For more information on making a complaint about bullying, visit Making a complaint
Talk to your child about who they're talking to online and encourage them to think before talking to people they don't know in person
Try to understand and guide your child's online behaviour - negotiate and establish boundaries and discuss sensitively the issues around the concept of 'friends'
Familiarise yourself with the social networking sites and chat programmes your child uses. Find out more about its build-in safety functions and how they can be contacted within the service
Ask your child if they know how to block someone who they don't want to talk to anymore. If they don't, help them learn how to use the blocking feature
Use parental control software provided by your internet service provider, mobile phone network, online content provider or games console, and consider using filtering options, monitoring and setting time limits for access to chat.
If you discover misconduct between your child and someone online stay calm, investigate the facts and seek expert help. If someone has acted inappropriately towards your child, or someone they know (such as sexual chat, or asking them to meet up) contact the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP)
ABA and the Sex Education Forum (SEF) have produced a free guide for parents and carers with advice on talking to children about healthy and safe relationships online.
It is very difficult for parents and carers when they find out that their child has been involved in a bullying incident - perhaps even more so if their child is the one accused of bullying behaviour. The important thing to remember is that anyone is capable of bullying behaviour. As parents you have a key role in helping your child to recognise the harm they have caused and encouraging them to change their behaviour in the future. All parents and carers should speak to their children about what bullying is - and how it makes people feel.
They need to feel they can talk to you if there is bullying happening in their class or school. Sometimes children and young people can be pulled into bullying behaviour by friends or the wider peer group - this is particularly true of hurtful comments and images spread through social networking sites. Some top tips for parents include:
Make sure your child knows what bullying behaviour is and why it is wrong
Make sure your child knows they can talk to you, or to another adult if they are worried about bullying
Help your child to realise that no one has the right to pressure them into something they don't want to do - this includes bullying others
Make sure they are not bullying others in retaliation for bullying they have suffered - find out if there is a wider culture of bullying in the school or environment where its happened
Talk to your child about information that is shared through social networking sites - let them know that they shouldn't upload comments or images that could hurt someone else - or pass on content that is designed to hurt someone else. Let them know most social networking sites have report buttons if they have seen bullying behaviour and they want to stop it.
Make it clear that you do not tolerate the use of disrespectful and hurtful language and behaviour as a family (it's vital that you model this as parents)
If the school contact you to say your child has been involved in bullying incident stay calm and make sure you gather all the facts relating to the incident. Ask to see evidence if it is available (for example if the alleged bullying is through the internet or phones). Ask for a copy of the school anti-bullying and behaviour policy so you can ensure that they are following agreed procedures. Take time to listen to your child's side of the story - but keep an open mind. If the school share information or evidence that shocks you (children can sometimes behave very differently away from their parents) again stay calm, and take time to talk through the incident with your child. Try not to see the behaviour as a permanent reflection of their character - but make clear the behaviour you would like to change. It may be that their current friendship group is having a negative effect on their behaviour - in which case you should talk about what it means to be a friend, and gently encourage them to form more positive relationships.
Ultimately you are not the first - and you will not be the last parent to have to face this. Don't blame yourself - today is the time for change.
Family Lives (previously Parentline Plus) 0808 800 2222 - gives support and advice for parents on any aspect of parenting and family life, including bullying.
Contact a Family have a helpline for families with disabled children - they can give advice on bullying issues. You can contact them on 0808 808 3555 and visit their website for more information
The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) Provides help and advice on cyberbullying, the Centre maintains a website for children and young people, and parents and carers about staying safe online.
Ofsted Parent View website This website has an online questionnaire that allows parents and carers to give their views on their child's school at any time of the year. The questionnaire asks for parents for their opinion on 12 aspects of their child's school, from the quality of teaching, to dealing with bullying and poor behaviour, with a final question as to whether or not they would recommend the school to other parents.
Red Balloon Learner Centres Red Balloon provide intensive, full-time education for children aged between 9 and 18 who feel unable to return to school because they have been severely bullied. There are Red Balloon Centres all over England, and they also have a programme of online support.
Welldoing is an independent, UK-wide directory of therapists and counsellors who are all members of reputable professional organisations. There is a separate search function for children and adolescents in need of therapists and counsellors. It also supplies information and advice in the areas of mental health, wellbeing and development.
Counselling Directory provides a huge support network of counsellors, enabling visitors to find a counsellor close to them and appropriate for their needs.