One of the biggest challenges you may face as a parent is what to do if your child is being bullied. It can be difficult to know whether to step in and address the issue, especially if it's having a major effect on your child.
Figures from ChildLine show that in 2012-13, the charity dealt with 45,000 calls from young people about bullying. A big problem for parents is that teenagers in particular can find it difficult to talk about the issue. So what can you do to help?
Open up the lines of communication
Although your child might not be willing to open up about their experiences, it's important they know you're there for them when they do. This means making it clear you're always available to lend a sympathetic ear, or to help deal with the problem if they want someone to fight their corner.
The NSPCC says there aren't always clear indications to suggest a teenager is being bullied, but rather a combination of out-of-the-ordinary factors. These might include poorer performance at school, belongings being lost or damaged, or problems with eating and sleeping.
As a parent, you're probably best placed to recognise these changes. If you feel bullying might be the root cause, make sure you're supportive rather than critical.
How to address the issue with your child's school
When your child's being bullied, it's not uncommon for them to become withdrawn from society and reluctant to go to school.
Research carried out by the National Centre for Social Research found that for 17.5 per cent of 11 to 15 year olds, bullying is one of the reasons they have been absent from school. In 3.4 per cent of cases, it's been the main cause of absence.
If you're at all concerned the source of bullying might be at school, it's a good idea to raise the issue. Speak to your child's form tutor to see if they have noticed any unusual behaviour. In most cases, this is the member of staff who sees your child on a regular basis, making them most likely to pick up on any issues. If no improvements are seen, think about speaking to someone more senior, such as an assistant head teacher.
Combating cyber bullying
Bullying is no longer the reserve of the school playground, as teenagers can also find themselves tormented online. According to the NSPCC, cyber bullying encompasses a range of activities from sending abusive text messages to creating embarrassing videos or pictures.
Teenagers might be less than keen for you to monitor their online activities, but it's something you may need to resort to if you suspect cyber bullying. Children should be taught from a young age to recognise the warning signs and take precautions to stop it happening.
As a parent, you should encourage your children to avoid sharing personal information online and contacting people who they don't know. This way, you can be sure the chances of cyber bullying are kept to a minimum.