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Your child will have developed relationships with you and members of their family, they will also form relationships with people they meet such as friends at school, clubs or activities, as well as grown-ups such as their teachers and teaching assistants, instructors and activity co-ordinators. Relationships may also be formed with people they meet online.

There may be times when your child struggles with certain relationships, such as friendships. Your child may feel excluded from a certain group of friends, or they may experience bullying. As a parent it can be difficult to hear that your child feels hurt or upset, but it is better for them to talk about how they’re feeling than to keep such feelings inside them. The best thing you can do is listen and support your child as they experience the ups and downs in their relationships and losing and making friends.

There are some children who for one reason or another find it difficult to form relationships with others. This may include children with learning disabilities or autism. However it doesn’t mean they can’t develop relationships altogether.

What is bullying?

At some point your child may experience bullying, where someone intimidates them or causes them harm, such as teasing, name-calling, hitting, kicking, hair-pulling, spreading rumours or excluding them from playtime or social events.

Where bullying might happen

Bullying may happen in school or at a club your child attends, usually in a place where there is limited adult supervision such as the playground, hallways, dining room or classroom before lessons begin. Bullying can also happen by text or online, which is known as cyberbullying.

How your child might behave if they are being bullied

Your child may or may not tell you they are being bullied, but you may notice some changes in their behaviour such as not wanting to go to school, being irritable, anxious, aggressive, having damaged or missing belongings, bedwetting or waking-up at night.

What to do if you think your child is being bullied

If your child tells you they are being bullied, or if you suspect your child is being bullied, make time to talk about it in a quiet space and listen carefully to what they have to say. You can support your child by explaining that bullying is unacceptable and no one should have to put up with it, that you will support them and do whatever you can to stop it.

Contact your child’s school

Make an appointment to see your child’s teacher as soon as you can. Beforehand, think about what you would like to achieve from the meeting and prepare what you want to say. Remember that the teacher may not be aware of the bullying and, although you may feel upset and emotional, try to stay calm. Explain what has been happening to your child, giving specific examples, ask what the school’s anti-bullying policy is and what action the teacher will take. Arrange a further meeting to discuss progress.

If you are unhappy with the way the teacher deals with the situation, make an appointment to see the head teacher and do the same as above.

Useful information

Further advice and information

If you think your child is bullying others 

If you think your child may be bullying another child or other children, then consider why they might be doing this. They might be going through a difficult time or copying someone else’s behaviour, such as an older child or grown-up. Explain that bullying is unacceptable and how it hurts other people and ask them how they might feel if it were happening to them. Encourage your child to be friendly, kind and understanding and watch how they behave when they are around other children.