Bullying: 'She was in tears every day'

Bullying is a common problem, but parents can take action to help their children, says Amy McLellan

One mother recalls her horror at finding out her eight-year-old daughter was being bullied at school. "She came home every day in tears. The school seemed to think that this was just part of growing up. It only stopped when we moved her to a new school."

Bullying is a widespread problem in schools. A survey by Childline (www.childline.org.uk) found that half of all primary children and more than one in four secondary pupils had been bullied in the previous year. Last year the charity received more than 31,000 calls from victims of bullying, many of whom had kept it secret from their parents, for fear that they would make it worse, or worry.

Parents need to watch for the warning signs. If your child is anxious about going back to school, have a chat with them, then take a deep breath. Your instincts may be to storm up to the school or, the bully's house, but you need to give your child time to talk. Solutions are likely to involve the school, so get your child's permission to talk to a teacher.

The response from schools can vary. They are required to have an anti-bullying policy and it's worth asking for a copy to make sure they are following their own guidelines, says Liz Carnell of Bullying Online.

The charity's website (www.bullying.co.uk) contains a step-by-step guide for parents on how to approach the school.

"If it's a primary school, ask the teacher if they've spotted anything," says Carnell. "Primary teachers can limit contact with the bully in the classroom or step up supervision in the playground." Secondary school bullying is harder to crack as it's much more difficult for teachers to build up a picture of what's going on.

"Don't let the school brush you off because the bullying happens outside school," says Carnell. "Teachers have the power to act on bullying in the vicinity of the school."

Encourage your child to keep a diary of incidents and save abusive emails or text messages as evidence to put before the school. If your first approach doesn't work, write a letter to the head. If that fails, contact the governors and the LEA.

All of this takes time, during which your child may be going through hell. Speaking to a counsellor, either on the phone or online, can help them cope, as can assertiveness exercises. Never advise your child to hit back, though: it leaves them open to allegations of assault and may escalate the violence.

Hilary Wilce, author of Help Your Child Succeed at School (Piatkus), says short-term solutions can include working out a different route home, picking your child up, or even buying a different pair of trainers.

Try not to let the problem dominate at home. "Find outside interests,so they can make a different friends," says Wilce.

The most important thing is to act. Don't let teachers dismiss your concerns. Wilce says, "You know your child best and if you think there's something wrong there usually is."

It's not just the short-term symptoms of anxiety and poor school work; there are also long-term problems, from self-harm to severe depression.

"Bullying doesn't just stop," says Carnell of Bullying Online. "It doesn't usually get resolved unless children confide in an adult and the adult takes it seriously."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Arts and Entertainment
The sight of a bucking bronco in the shape of a pink penis was too much for Hollywood actor and gay rights supporter Martin Sheen, prompting him to boycott a scene in the TV series Grace and Frankie
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
Arts and Entertainment
Twin Peaks stars Joan Chen, Michael Ontkean, Kyle Maclachlan and Piper Laurie
tvName confirmed for third series
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

Reach Volunteering: Would you like to volunteer your expertise as Chair of Governors for Livability?

Voluntary and unpaid, reasonable expenses are reimbursable: Reach Volunteering...

Ashdown Group: Payroll Administrator - Buckinghamshire - £25,000

£20000 - £25000 per annum + substantial benefits: Ashdown Group: Finance Admin...

Ashdown Group: Linux Systems Administrator - Windows, Linux - Central London

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Linux Systems Administrat...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine