Bullying remains a serious issue and can have a big impact on the lives of children and young people. With more young people now using the internet and social media, cyberbullying is making the problem worse – with some children finding it difficult to escape from the abuse they suffer in everyday life.
While bullying can affect all young people, looked-after children can be more vulnerable than most because of their situation and background. Also, they may be less likely to speak out about what they’re going through, making it harder for foster carers and social workers to help.
This week (11-15 November) marks Anti-Bullying Week 2019, an annual weeklong event set up by the Anti-Bullying Alliance (ABA) to raise awareness about bullying and help children, parents, carers and teachers. As a member of the ABA, we’re marking #AntiBullyingWeek with our guide on understanding and preventing bullying – helping you spot the signs and help your foster child if they’re being bullied.
Use the links below to jump ahead or read on for the full guide.
- Spotting the Signs that Your Child is Being Bullied
- How to Help Your Child if They Are Being Bullied
- What You Need to Know About Cyberbullying
- Helpful Resources and Advice
Children and young people can be reluctant to tell family members about the bullying they suffer. That’s why, as a foster carer, you need to be aware of your child’s mood and behaviour, so you can tell when something’s going on.
If you think your child could be being bullied, here are some of the common signs that could tell you that they’re suffering bullying either at school or online:
- Missing belongings or damage to their clothes
- Upset or withdrawn after using the phone, tablet or computer
- Returning home late or leaving very early – with a view to avoiding their bullies on the way in and out of school
- Distressed, upset or reluctant to go to bed on a Sunday night or at the end of school holidays, when they know they’re at school the following day
- Unexplained illnesses such as headaches, sore throats and tummy upsets – as a way to stay off school sick
- Quiet and withdrawn
- Physical marks on their body, such as bruises or scratches
- A general reluctance to go to school or be out with friends
- Poor behaviour, anger problems and irritability
Children and young people react differently to bullying and some are more seriously affected by it than others. Sometimes, the negative effects of bullying can result in serious mental health issues like anxiety and depression – which is why it’s so important to put an end to bullying and get them the help they need.
It can be really difficult to see your child dealing with being bullied, but how you react and approach the situation is important. Children may be worried and may fear the repercussions of speaking out about their bullies, so you need to be patient, offer reassurance and show that you’re there to support them.
Here are our tips on how to help your foster child if they are being bullied.
- Listen and offer reassurance – It can take a lot of courage for young people to speak out about the bullying they’ve suffered, so listen and reassure them that they were right to speak to you. Try to establish the facts and make a record of what they’ve said, that way you can approach the school with an accurate account of what’s happened.
- Talk to your child’s social worker and the school – It’s important that the school is made aware of the bullying as soon as possible so that they can act to make sure the right safeguarding measures are put in place. Every child has the right to a safe and secure place to learn, so work with their social worker to make sure the school is providing a safe environment.
- Don’t encourage retaliation – You might feel angry and upset about your child’s bullying, but don’t encourage them to retaliate with violence or aggression. If they lash out at their peers, it could make things worse. Instead, encourage them to walk away and seek help whenever they feel threatened.
- Assure them that you care – Bullying can have a far-reaching impact on young people, lowering their self-esteem and making them feel isolated and alone. Invest time into making them feel wanted and cared for, and encourage them to take up activities that will build their confidence and help them make new friends.
For more help in supporting your child if they’re being bullied, we’d recommend this comprehensive guide from The Diana Award.
Cyberbullying is a form of bullying that takes place online, and is becoming one of the most harmful forms. It can be really difficult for young people to escape the effects of cyberbullying, and equally difficult for carers to stop it.
If your child has access to a smartphone, tablet or computer, they could be at risk from cyberbullying. The worrying thing about this type of bullying is that it can happen anywhere at any time, and your child may not even know those responsible.
As a foster carer, there are several things you can do to reduce the risk of your child becoming a victim to cyberbullying. It is important to educate them on the importance of internet safety and privacy, add built-in safety features to their preferred social media platforms, and monitor their internet usage.
For in-depth guidance on how to prevent cyberbullying, read our guide on keeping children safe online.
There are lots of places you can go to get help for your child when they’re being bullied, and we’ve listed a few of the best places to get support and advice below.
Anti-Bullying Alliance – The UK’s biggest anti-bullying initiative, operated by the National Children’s Bureau. The ABA provides tools and information for children and carers, as well as information on how you can get involved in events like Anti-Bullying Week.
Family Lives – Offering confidential advice and support for families going through difficulties, including bullying.
NSPCC – The UK’s leading children’s charity has lots of helpful resources for children who may be experiencing bullying, as well as a free helpline. There’s also a useful portal for parents and carers, too.
Internet Matters – A not-for-profit organisation dedicated to helping parents and carers keep their children safe online, Internet Matters can help with all aspects of cyberbullying.
Kidscape – A charity that funds training and activities for children who have suffered bullying, with a goal to rebuild their confidence and self-esteem.
At the NFA, we provide 24/7 support to all our foster families, and offer training to help them manage issues such as bullying. For more information about fostering with us, visit our homepage or call our team today on 0330 022 9135.