Originally published: February 2024

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Bullying is aggressive behaviour meant to cause harm, fear, or distress. It’s often about social power, where one person has real or perceived power over another. It can take many forms, including cyberbullying. This could include spreading rumors or sharing hurtful messages or pictures online.

Kids who are seen as different—in any way—are at higher risk of being bullied. Bullying can have negative mental health impacts for both those who bully and those who are bullied.

Bullying is never okay. It’s not a normal part of growing up. As a parent or caregiver, you play an important role in helping to prevent and address bullying. Here’s what you can do.

Talk about it

Open and honest communication with your child is important, especially in today's digital age.

Take time to ask your child about their experiences with bullying, whether it's at school, on the bus, playground, online, or in other places. If you think they might be a target of bullying, gently ask, "are you ever bullied?"

Check in with your child often and keep lines of communication open. Encourage them to share their thoughts, feelings, and experiences. Let them know that you're there for them, no matter what.

Watch for warning signs your child is being bullied

Always take reports of bullying seriously. Recognize the courage it takes to report or talk about bullying.

Here are some signs your child may be a target of bullying:

  • Fear of going to school or making excuses to avoid school
  • Changes in school performance
  • Unexplained injuries
  • Lost or damaged personal belongings
  • Nightmares or trouble sleeping
  • Becoming withdrawn, unhappy or irritable
  • Making negative comments
  • Talking about suicide

Offer support  

You know your child best. If you think they’re being bullied:

  • Empower them to communicate assertively with words (not violence).
  • Encourage them to write down or tell someone what’s going on and save evidence.
  • Help them identify safe, trusted adults they can go to for support (like teachers, coaches, and Elders).

Consider if your child may be bullying others

Bullying is a tough problem that hurts both children who are bullied and those who are doing the bullying. Here are some signs your child may be bullying others:

  • Having new things or extra money
  • Talking about taunting or teasing others
  • Laughing or not caring if others are hurt
  • Aggression with others
  • Leaving others out

Help them stop

If you’re concerned that your child is bullying 

others, these actions can help:

  • Set clear guidelines and consequences for unacceptable behavior.
  • Teach and model the importance of respect and empathy. Help them take responsibility and make amends if they’ve hurt someone.

Connect with others for support

Work with your child’s school and let them know right away about bullying situations. Try these tips:

  • Ask your child who they trust at school and get those adults involved in addressing concerns.
  • Ask teachers and school administrators about their policies and plans to prevent and address bullying.
  • Build connections with the parents and guardians of your child’s friends so that you can watch for healthy or unhealthy interactions.

Remember that as a parent or caregiver, your involvement and support are important in helping your child feel safe and secure.

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