A new school, new classes and new friends are an exciting time for every child – but encounters can sometimes be uncomfortable. If a child is being bullied or witnesses someone being treated unkindly, you can help them cope and teach them how to help others.

Mr Taufiq Salehoodin, Social Programme Assistant Manager from Student Service @ Children’s Society, oversees our Bully-Free programme, and offers up some advice.

Question: My friend posted her latest selfie on Instagram and has been getting a lot of unkind comments. She doesn’t know what to do next. What can I do to help?

You can advise your friend to delete or hide the comments that upset her, or to make her account private through her privacy settings. This gives her more control over who can comment on her posts.

If your friend is emotionally affected by the comments, you can go through some of those comments with her, so she can challenge and reject statements that are untrue. Let her know that those statements do not define her.

You can also take a stand as an upstander, and post a comment telling the bullies to stop their negative behaviour. If the bullying persists, you can go with her to seek help from a trusted adult.

Question: My son just confided in me that he bullies other children in school. He says that while it makes him feel good, he is not proud of it and wants to change. How do I help him?

Start by affirming your son’s decision to change his bullying behaviour, and promise to support him. Listen to his struggles and teach him about respectful and responsible communication. Practise these conversations with him. Teach your child about perspective-taking and facilitate apologies. Work towards restoring safety  and peer relationships. Monitor your son’s progress and seek assistance from school personnel when needed.

When it comes to the bystander’s responses to bullying incidences, what is key is one’s ability to recognise the signs and knowing how to respond appropriately and safely. One can show their support by being there for a friend and making a report to the relevant authorities where necessary. Your actions can spark a positive change for everyone. 

More resources on dealing with bullying can be found here.