Suranne Jones shares her experiences of ‘terrifying and relentless bullying’ – what to do if your child is being bullied

·5-min read
Suranne Jones pictured in May 2022, she has opened up about her experiences of being bullied. (Getty Images)
Suranne Jones has shared her experiences of being bullied as a teenager. (Getty Images)

Suranne Jones has discussed the "terrifying and relentless bullying" she experienced as a child, explaining how it impacted her confidence as a teenager.

The Gentleman Jack actor, 44, revealed that she was "still figuring out who I was" during her teenage years and as a result "that journey wasn't always easy".

“The bullying I faced was relentless and terrifying," she said about the period she detailed in a Letter To My Younger Self found in next week’s Big Issue.

"I constantly felt like I was standing out for all the wrong reasons. It was an ongoing battle between wanting to fit in and wanting to be myself.”

Read more: Giovanna Fletcher reflects on ‘awful’ school bullying

Jones went on to explain how her experiences impacted her self-esteem and "took away my confidence".

"It stopped the teenage Suranne imagining being successful or respected by other people,” she tells the publication.

The Doctor Foster star is sharing her story to help raise awareness about the issue and how it can be tackled.

“Bullying isn’t confined to classrooms,” she says, “It’s prevalent in different societal structures and that’s why our approach to tackling it needs to change. We can’t just tell children to ignore it. We need to empower them and cultivate understanding and respect in potential bullies.”

School girls bullying
Rejection is part of bullying and can be very damaging. (Getty Images)

How to tell if your child is being bullied

Bullying can take many forms, and if your child says they're being bullied – or you suspect it's happening –it can be hard to know what''s really going on.

A survey by the Anti-Bullying Alliance found that one in five (21%) pupils in England reported being bullied "a lot or always", with one in 22 (4.6%) – the equivalent of more than one in every classroom – saying they are frequently "hit, kicked or pushed" by other children.

Meanwhile, one in 12 are "frequently teased", one in 14 say they are often called hurtful names, and one in 16 say they are picked on for being "different".

Signs your child could be being bullied

Anti-bullying charity Kidscape has put together some signs to watch out for:

  • Any change in behaviour (louder, quieter, angrier, sadder)

  • Being scared to go to school or take part in their usual activities

  • Unexplained illness like tummy bugs and headaches

  • Disturbed sleep

  • Bed wetting

  • Injuries

  • Distress after using phones or tablets

  • Lost or stolen belongings

Read more: How to tell if you're being verbally or emotionally bullied at work

girl in bed texting on smartphone
Online bullying can be hard for parents to recognise. (Getty Images)

What to do if you think your child is being bullied

1. Remind them of happier times

"It’s critical to support your child," says Tanith Carey, author of The Friendship Maze: How to help your child navigate their way to positive, happier, friendships. "Look through old family albums and remember the happy times. Tell them just because it feels bad for them now, doesn’t mean it will feel like this forever."

"Encourage them to do activities that help them feel better, e.g. exercise or a craft project. Reassure them you love them and that it’s not their fault. Suggest they see friends they know out of school, who can remind them they are still liked and valued."

Let your child know that you're taking their feelings seriously. (Getty Images)
Let your child know that you're taking their feelings seriously. (Getty Images)

2. Explain why bullying happens

One of the worst things for kids who are being bullied is wondering why they are the targets, says Carey. "Don’t let your child think, ‘Why me?’ Explain that children target others for complex personal reasons, and sometimes because they feel threatened."

A bully may be victimised at home, or feel ignored and powerless. They might be trying to find favour with more popular children. Let your child know that bullying is always about the bully – not the target.

Sharing secrets with mom. Preteen african girl sitting on couch having confident frank talk with understanding mother or elder sister, school psychologist listening to bullying or racial abuse victim
Help your child to feel empowered by letting them know they can speak up. (Getty Images)

3. Help them to feel empowered

"Help them work through how best to respond," suggests Carey. "Whatever the reasons, other children will be emboldened to continue bullying behaviour if they believe yours is too scared to speak up.

"They are more likely to back off when your child takes a stand to name the behaviour, warns them they will tell an adult and makes it clear they are not an easy target. Get them to practise saying, 'I don’t like it when you say/do that. I want you to stop.'"

Read more: 'I couldn't take it any more': The bullied teen who turned the tables

4. Keep a record

If it continues, Carey recommends keeping a record with your child. "Write down what happened, when it happened, and who was involved. If the bullying is online, keep the evidence – save or copy any photos, videos, texts, emails or posts. Screenshot any messages."

Teenager visiting psychotherapist, successful addiction rehabilitation
Going to see the Head or a teacher may feel like a last resort, but it may bring the bullying to an end. (Getty Images)

5. See the school

Let the school know as they will have a specific anti-bullying policy in place to help protect pupils. "Ask teachers to monitor the situation over time and be aware of the social dynamic and give your child support if need be," Carey adds.