Sometimes bullying isn’t as straight forward as someone openly being horrible to another person. It can be much more complicated than that. There is such a thing as ‘false friendships’, where someone pretends to be your friend or is your ‘friend’ sometimes but actually uses their power to bully you.
False friendships can sometimes be hard for adults to identify. The Anti-Bullying Alliance have written some tips for parents about false friendships and how to support your child if they are being bullied by someone who is their ‘friend’:
- Talk to your child about what it is to be a good friend. For example, a good friend is kind and makes you feel good about yourself. This will help to highlight where there may be false friendships.
- Talk to your child about the difference between banter and bullying. Banter is playful where both parties find it funny. Bullying is repetitive and hurtful. It also involves a power imbalance. Tell them that if someone constantly puts them down they are not a real friend/ boyfriend/ girlfriend and not worth their time.
- Speak to your child’s teacher with your child. Ask them their perspective. Does your teacher fully understand the friendship/s dynamic?
- Don’t encourage your child to retaliate as this might get them into trouble themselves or put them in a dangerous position.
- Some children are more likely to have false friendships, for example disabled children, it is especially important that disabled children understand what makes a good friend.
- If your child doesn’t have many other friends, you could encourage them to get involved in extra curricular activities or activities outside of school – for example drama or a sport – so that they might be able to develop other friendships and improve their confidence.
- If your child is being bullied by someone who they thought was their friend, this can be especially hurtful. Make sure you praise them for telling you and agree a way forward together. Tell them it is not their fault.