​FAQs: What can parents do if bullying happens?

The series FAQs: Bullying in schools answers frequently asked questions about bullying, provides useful advice to parents and students about dealing with bullying, and summarises contemporary approaches to bullying in Australian school communities.

Download the complete set of frequently asked questions (PDF, 135KB) or read individual questions here. (See the menu for the range of FAQs).

What can parents do if their child tells them they are being bullied?
What strategies can parents suggest to their child who is being physically bullied?
What strategies can parents suggest to their child who is being verbally or socially bullied?
What strategies can parents suggest to their child who is being bullied online?
What should parents avoid telling their children to do?
What can parents do if they are told or suspect that their child is bullying others?
What can parents expect from their child's school?
What else can parents do?

What can parents do if their child tells them they are being bullied?

There are six key steps for parents if their child tells them they have been bullied:

  1. listen calmly to what your child wants to say and make sure you get the full story
  2. reassure your child that they are not to blame and ask open and empathetic questions to find out more details
  3. ask your child what they want to do and what they want you to do
  4. discuss with your child some sensible strategies to handle the bullying – starting a fight is not sensible
  5. contact the school and stay in touch with them
  6. check in regularly with your child.

What strategies can parents suggest to their child who is being physically bullied?

The Bullying. No Way! website provides information about strategies that can help. These can be tried to avoid physical bullying situations:

  1. avoid areas which allow the bullying students to avoid detection by teachers
  2. stay with other students
  3. talk to an adult at school or home who can help stop the bullying
  4. keep asking for support until the bullying stops.

What strategies can parents suggest to their child who is being verbally or socially bullied?

The Bullying. No Way! website provides information about strategies that can help. These can be tried if the child feels safe:

  1. ignore them
  2. tell them to stop and then walk away
  3. pretend you don't care, try to act unaffected or unimpressed
  4. try to deflect the bullying (e.g. pretending to agree in an offhand way 'okay, yeah, maybe')
  5. go somewhere else
  6. get support from your friends
  7. talk to an adult at the school or at home who can help stop the bullying
  8. keep asking for support until the bullying stops.

What strategies can parents suggest to their child who is being bullied online?

If bullying happens online, some of the strategies for face-to-face bullying may apply and as well, suggest that the child:

  1. avoid responding to the bullying
  2. block and report anyone who is bullying online
  3. protect yourself online – use privacy settings and keep records.

What should parents avoid telling their children to do?

Strategies not recommended for dealing with bullying include:

  • fighting back
  • bullying the person who has bullied them
  • remaining silent about the problem.

What can parents do if they are told or suspect that their child is bullying others?

The Bullying. No Way! website provides information about things to do. If a parent suspects their child has been bullying others, they can talk to their child about:

  • why they have been behaving this way
  • taking responsibility for their behaviour
  • how to sort out differences and resolve conflicts
  • how to treat others with respect
  • the effect of bullying on others
  • the need to repair harm they have caused to others
  • the need to restore relationships.

Parents may also like to talk to their child's school to come up with a plan to help their child learn more appropriate ways to behave.

What can parents expect from their child's school?

Schools will consider your child's circumstances and will develop the most appropriate strategies for them. These strategies could include:

  • teaching and learning programs to develop students' communication, social, assertiveness and coping skills
  • changes to the school environment such as redesigning the playground
  • increasing teachers' supervision of students at particular times or places
  • support from a school counsellor, psychologist or guidance officer
  • mediation for the students involved with a trained teacher to resolve their problem
  • changes to technology access at school
  • timetable or class changes (that may be temporary or permanent) to decrease the contact the students have with each other
  • disciplinary action for students who continue to bully others despite the efforts of the school to promote appropriate behaviour.

The school may develop an action plan for your child and any other children involved. Strategies you could use at home may also be included in this plan.

What else can parents do?

Parents who are child-centred (focused on the child's experience), warm and authoritative (firm and reasonable about their authority over the child) have an overall positive influence in reducing both the likelihood of bullying happening and impact if it does happen.

Cooperation between home and school to prevent bullying is essential. Efforts to address bullying by schools are unlikely to succeed if the school and home are treated as separate settings.

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