6 Ways Bullying Impacts the Family

Mother and daughter looking sad

When bullying occurs, there are a number of consequences a victim experiences, including emotional and behavioral changes. But victims of bullying are not the only ones affected. In fact, research shows that the target’s family members also are impacted.

From powerlessness and anxiety to isolation and physical ailments, the consequences of bullying can run the gamut. But knowing how family members might be affected can help reduce the overall impact of bullying. Here are the top six ways families are impacted when another member of the family is bullied.

Feelings of Powerlessness

Because bullying is a choice that is made by the bully, there is very little that parents and other family members can do to control the situation. Although they can report bullying and support the victim, they cannot make it stop. Yet, they feel like they should be able to make it stop. And when they can't, they often feel vulnerable and helpless.

Physical Symptoms

Parents often report being physically ill when they learn about the bullying their child is enduring. For some, this is a temporary feeling but for others, this is just the beginning of a long list of physical complaints. For instance, some will develop ulcers and other stomach problems. Meanwhile, others may struggle with depression, chronic headaches, and stress-related conditions.

As a result, it is important that parents and other family members work to stay healthy. They should avoid sacrificing their own health in an effort to help the person being bullied.

Anger, Agitation, and Anxiety

Bullying is an unknown. It is impossible to predict when it will occur again and in what capacity. Consequently, many family members will experience a wide range of emotions including everything from anger to anxiety.

The important thing is that they recognize and deal with their emotions in a healthy and constructive way. Getting overly angry or being constantly agitated is not going to help the victim. And if anger becomes an issue, then family members need to learn how to manage anger, control impulses and address anxiety issues.


When a child is being severely bullied, some parents can’t stop thinking about the situation. It consumes their every thought. And many times they become excessively fearful for their child’s safety often creating an oppressive and limiting environment. This type of over-protective parenting style only heightens the anxiety for everyone involved. Instead of obsessing over things that they cannot control, family members should focus on empowering the child that is being bullied.

Feelings of Failure

Parents and older siblings often struggle with a sense of failure when it comes to bullying. Not only do they feel like they have failed to protect the person being bullied, but parents also question their parenting abilities. They worry that they missed the signs of bullying or that they didn’t do enough to bully-proof their child in the first place.

If it’s cyberbullying, parents often wonder if they should have done more to monitor their child’s technology use or if they should have restricted it in some way. The truth is that no one can predict who a bully will target. Parents can do everything right and still find out that their child is being targeted by bullies. As a result, they should never feel responsible for the choices a bully makes.

Loneliness and Isolation

Many people expect that other parents and neighbors would side with them when their child is being bullied. But sadly, most people just don’t want to get involved. They would rather stay neutral about a bullying situation than stand up for what is right.

Many adult bystanders pass judgment on parents when a child is bullied. They criticize the parenting style of the victim’s parents and reassure themselves that something like this would never happen to their child. All of these things leave parents and other members of the family feeling alone and isolated.

People engage in victim-blaming when they believe that if the victim was different in some way this would have never happened. But the problem with victim-blaming is that it releases the bully from all responsibility and puts it on the shoulders of the one who was injured.

Given that these consequences are serious, it is important for family members to seek outside help when someone they love is being bullied. They need to be sure they are staying healthy and taking care of themselves. Doing so will better prepare them for helping the person who is being victimized by bullies.

By Sherri Gordon
Sherri Gordon, CLC is a published author, certified professional life coach, and bullying prevention expert.