Fifty Key Messages – tips if you suspect your child is being bullied or is a bully

Tips if you suspect your child is being bullied or is a bully.

Unfortunately, bullying isn’t uncommon, and in some surveys up to 40 per cent of children report experiencing or being involved in bullying at school. Many children who are targeted are already marginalised or struggling. Up to half of those who are bullied suffer in silence and don’t tell their parents or teachers what is going on.

Bullying behaviours can be physical and direct, such as slagging, intimidation and aggression, or more subtle and relational such as exclusion, talking negatively about a child to others, or the silent treatment.

The growth of social media, texting and online communication has provided new ways to harass others, and, given the public nature of these forums, they can be more devastating for children and teenagers.

Bullying is also a complex group phenomenon, which is reinforced by an audience and supported by the silence of bystanders. Many children who engage in it are not aware of its impact on the victim or may have been victims themselves. All cases require a sensitive response.

How can you tell if your child is being bullied? Though some children are reluctant to tell, there are many indicators that your child might be being bullied or that s/he is coping with some other problem: unexplained cuts or bruises, sudden lack of confidence; anxiety about going to school; poor school performance; privacy about online communications.


The first thing is to help your child to talk about what is happening. Being specific about your worries can help a reluctant child to open up. You can say, “I notice you have been very unhappy going to school the last few days. Is there anything or anyone bothering you there?”

Listen to your child’s feelings about what has happened and support them emotionally. Remember this is as important as taking action to stop the bullying. Crucially, reassure your child that he or she is not at fault and does not deserve to be targeted.

Be careful about over-reacting to what your child discloses by becoming very upset yourself or by immediately rushing in a rage to the school to demand action. Impulsive actions can make matters worse and can make your child reluctant to talk to you.

Make a plan of action to deal with it, such as meeting the school or contacting the website host. Seek professional support and guidance as necessary.

Depending on your child’s age, talk through with them what actions they can take to protect themselves or to stop the bullying, such as keeping away from their tormentors, being assertive in response to taunts or talking to teachers. Be wary of thinking children can solve the problem themselves. Most children need the support of an adult.

Remember to support the child’s friendship with children who are kind to them. Encourge their involvement in healthy, enjoyable pursuits that provide respite and another source of support to them.


Take a report that your child might be bullying seriously. Don’t under-react by dismissing the suggestion – “my child would never do such a thing” – nor over-react by being very punitive towards your child. The key is to intervene early to stop the pattern and to help your child to learn better ways to communicate or to fit in with a group.

Present the information directly to your child and listen carefully to their account of what is happening as well as their feelings.

Focus on the alleged behaviour you want to stop and not your child’s “being a bully”. Help him or her to think of the impact of the behaviour on the other child and to imagine how he or she might feel in the same situation. Emphasise the importance of respecting, accepting and including others.

Explore actions your child can take to move forward, such as apologising if appropriate, or communication skills he or she can use to stop the bullying. For example, if it occurs in a group, explore what your child might say or do to stop it, for example by addressing the person who is starting it with, “Come on, don’t be stupid, leave John alone.”

Hold them accountable for their behaviour and warn them of consequences, such as loss of privileges, if they don’t stop.

Monitor the situation carefully and make sure to check with your child how things are going. Work co-operatively with the school or whoever made the report to sort things out.


Schools have a particular responsibility to address bullying by having proactive positive-behaviour and anti-bullying policies, with a preventative component such as educating children about the dangers of bullying, and teaching face to face and social media communication skills.

The silence surrounding bullying means schools need to encourage children to report bullying incidents. Some schools are creative, conducting frequent anonymous surveys with pupils about bullying incidents and, most importantly, following these up.

Schools need to act quickly following reports, including skilled interviewing of the alleged bully (see above), school sanctions and skilled classroom interventions.

John Sharry, Irish Times Newspaper, November 3rd 2012

Source: Solution Talk

More information available from Tusla.

If you want to explore more Key Messages to support your parenting see

Fifty Key Messages – Is your child affected by bullying?

(From Tusla’s parenting24seven website – link below)

Bullying is the repeated abuse of a child by one or several other children or adults. Incidences of bullying need to be taken very seriously. Your child will need lots of support if they are being bullied or if they have been accused of bullying themselves.

1. Look out for signs that your child is being affected by bullying, for example:

  • Being withdrawn
  • Not sleeping
  • Not eating
  • Not wanting to play with their friends
  • Being more ‘clingy’ than usual
  • Overly anxious

2. Tell your child you will take action in relation to the bullying.

3. If the bullying is happening at school, talk to the teacher and ask to see the policies and protocols that apply to bullying.

4. Ensure that there is a plan put in place to manage the bullying situation. Keep in touch regularly with the school and keep your child informed.

See also:

For more Key Messages check out

Bullying and Cyberbullying

Bullying has become an increasingly common issue among young people.  Once you become aware that your son/daughter is being bullied then it should be addressed for the safety and welfare of the young person.  Likewise if your son/daughter is the bully it needs to be addressed and stopped.  There are lots of websites available that provide helpful tips and resources for you as a parent.

Foróige Against Bullying (F.A.B.) programme explores issues of bullying and support young people to develop the skills needed to deal to with bullying. After completing the programme young people will be able to recognise and deal with bullying behaviour in a positive way.

For more information contact Susan McLoughlin 086 6064291

Useful Link:

Cyberbullying & Internet Safety

A 2015 survey revealed that one in four Irish teenagers have experienced cyberbullying.  This form of bullying can have a particularly devastating effect on young people, and due to the nature of it young people often feel like there is no escape from it.  It can take place in many different ways and across many different platforms such as by text, e-mail, Facebook, Snapchat and other social media sites and apps.

It can be difficult to know if your child is being cyber-bullied, or is bullying someone else online as there are often no witnesses to the bullying.  There is however some signs that parents/guardians can look out for so a possible issue can be addressed.  If your child seems nervous or distressed when they receive a text, instant message etc, or depressed after spending time online or on their phone, and if they become reluctant to socialise or leave the house.

With so many new apps and websites appearing all the time it can be hard to keep up, but there are some tips to minimise the risk.  Place the family computer in an open area in your home, openly discuss privacy settings with your young people, make sure their online profiles don’t include any personal information, and monitor their internet use.  The most important thing is to have an open dialogue about internet safety and cyberbullying, and to make sure they know they can ask for help if they need it.

Donegal Youth Service offer one-to-one support for young people and parents who have concerns about cyberbullying and internet safety, as well as seminars and age appropriate workshops for young people, schools, youth groups, teachers and parents.  For more information contact Gareth Gibson, Youth Information Manager on 074 91 29630