A WIILTSHIRE councillor is encouraging parents to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with youngsters by following some simple yet effective tips to help handle bullying.

Andrew Bryant, local author of ‘Teenager: All You Need to Know in One Concise Manual’ from Haynes Publishing, launched his book last month ahead of this week’s Anti-Bullying Week (Nov 16-20).

Every November, schools throughout the UK take part in Anti-Bullying Week, organised by the Anti-Bullying Alliance. This year’s theme, United by Bullying, provides an opportunity to shine a spotlight on bullying and consider the steps that can be taken by everyone to stop it.

This includes parents and carers who are a vital piece of the puzzle in tackling bullying, says Cllr Bryant, who lives in Trowbridge and represents the Drynham ward on Wiltshire Council and Paxcroft ward on Trowbridge Town Council.

He said: “In recent data from the Ditch The Label survey, 22 per cent of UK teens reported being bullied in 2019 but 39 per cent of them did not tell their parents the whole story.

“This is a shocking statistic and underlines the importance of us all talking more widely about how we can put a stop to bullying and stand united.

“It can be a very stressful time for a parent hearing or suspecting that their child is being bullied.

“Of course, the normal reaction is to feel upset or angry, however, it is important for parents to keep a level head and to understand how their actions could help.

“Thankfully, there are some steps that parents can take in order to properly deal with the situation even if they don’t know the whole story at first.

“Parents should understand that bullying comes in many different forms, but no matter whether it is physical, verbal, cyber or otherwise, it should be treated in the proper manner. Your child may not be willing to tell you the whole story but try to listen as best you can and react accordingly.

“Before starting any conversations with the school think about what you want to achieve and make sure you are realistic in your expectations.

“Depending on the severity of the bullying, the school is likely to take actions such as a telling-off, a letter home, removal from a class, isolation or detention.”

Mr Bryant has two teenage children, Templar, 17, and Diva, 14, and has worked with young people for more than 30 years as a teacher, personal adviser, and youth and community worker.

His book covers all the topics that may be difficult to bring up with teens, from alcohol and drug use to tips on how to help teenagers develop a responsible attitude towards money.

“The book helps parents understand what important conversations they may want to have and is packed full of tips and tricks to help parent’s understand today’s teen world and better equip them to know when to step in and intervene or offer help when needed,” he said.

Mr Bryant’s top tips on what to do if you suspect your teen is being bullied are:

• Never intervene directly with another young person. Always approach a teacher or designated child welfare member of staff in the first instance.

• Before approaching the school, be aware of the school’s policy on bullying.

• If you feel the incident has not been resolved adequately, you can escalate the matter to a head of house/head of year, a senior manager, the head teacher and ultimately the chair of governors.

• Make sure you document responses from both your teen and the school – ask what actions will be taken, by whom and when.

• Always focus on your child, not on hearsay from the playground or other parents. However, be prepared that the real story may not be so clear-cut. The bully may in fact turn out to be your teen.

• Never encourage your teen to retaliate; your role is to teach your teen skills for life. Can you imagine the outcome if adults solved workplace disputes with punches?

• Create positive opportunities for your teen. Encourage them to leave school with clean clothes or spend less time on social media if possible.

• Keep a look out for bullying prone apps such as YOLO and Sarahah, these anonymous comment apps can easily facilitate cyber bullying.

‘Teenager: All You Need to Know in One Concise Manual’ by Andrew Bryant is available now at £12.99 from all good bookshops and online retailers.