The school year is about to begin, and the bullies will be out in force again. Although you cannot completely protect your child from bullying, know the signs of what to look for, and how to help as a parent.

Bullying is found in many forms in the school yard. Although verbal and physical are the most common, your child can also experience exclusion, threats, rumours, harassment and something increasingly prevalent – anti-social behaviour on social media.

If you suspect, or are concerned that your child is being bullied, there are steps to take to support them.

Listen

Encourage your child to talk to you about what has happened. Listen to their story, get a clear picture of what has happened and judge by your instincts.

It’s important to be familiar with the story – who is involved, how frequent the bullying is occurring, and what your child is doing before, as well as after the bullying occurs.

As a parent, it’s natural to react in a protective manner, but immediately confronting the bully’s parents is not the answer. Remain calm and don’t overreact.

Support

If your child is being bullied, they may feel scared, upset or angry. Recognise and validate these feelings by talking to them about how they feel. It is common for bullied children to treat younger siblings in the same manner, so it’s important to work through these emotions.

Bullying is also very harmful to a child’s self-esteem. Remind them that they are loved, strong and will get through this time.

Coping

There are two options for coping with bullying. Discuss strategies with your child to avoid the bully, whether it be eating lunch in a different area of the school yard, showing confidence in their body language or sticking closely to a friend while at school.

However, it can be difficult for your child to escape the bully if it’s occurring in the classroom, in a sports team or in after-school activities. If so, contact your child’s school and discuss joint solutions with them.

Australian schools have been developing a more proactive approach to bullying, and take it very seriously – so it can be a positive option for stopping the bullying in its tracks.

Kids Helpline is also a great way for kids to receive bullying support. Call 1800 55 1800 for web, phone or email counselling.