Signs of Bullying
Going back to school can be a period of distress for children as they anticipate being bullied or are bullied on school grounds. And it can be hard to know if your child is experiencing normal childhood teasing or showing signs of bullying. Bullying is unwanted behavior, often constant, and includes a power imbalance. It is when teasing becomes harmful and hurtful, is of a threatening or negative nature, and done on purpose.
Signs of Bullying to Watch Out For
There are signs you can watch for when your child goes back to school to spot if they are bullied. If you have concerns, ask open ended questions. Talk to your kids about what is going on at school. Some kids may be afraid to speak up. Remind your kids that bullying is not okay, if they are bullied it is not their fault, and you will work together on finding a solution if they are ever bullied. Signs to look for are:
- Avoidance of school and faking sickness. Younger children will express it as a headache or stomachache. Be sure to check with a physician to rule out any medical issues.
- Change in mood or behavior. This includes different sleeping or eating habits, which can be a sign of depression or severe anxiety about going to school. Declining grades or being more withdrawn after coming home from school are also signs that they may be experiencing bullying.
- Overeating at dinner time. Overeating at dinner could be a sign that your child is not able to eat lunch because it was taken away from them or they avoid the cafeteria.
- Damaged or missing items after being at school. This may be a sign that a bully is taking things from them or damaging their property.
- A sudden loss of friends or anti-social behavior. Bullying can include purposeful exclusion of another child. A sudden loss of a group of friends my be an indication of bullying by members of the group.
- Unexplained injuries. Talk to your child about any injuries they receive at school. Most injuries might be explained by playing games or sports, but if your child has a lot of unexplained injuries they could be being physically bullied.
- Emotionally agitated after getting off the internet. If your child seems more agitated after using technology, they may be being cyberbullied by their classmates after school.
Worried Your Child is the Bully?
Some parents may also be worried that their child is being the bully. In general boys are more apt to physically bully other kids and girls are more likely to verbally bully or cyberbully another kid. Warning signs to watch for if you think your child may be a bully:
- Increase of aggression. Some children go through mood swings, especially in middle school, but persistent and increased aggression can be a sign that your child is also exhibiting those behaviors toward other children.
- Excludes others kids in certain types of play or studying.
- Seems intolerant of other children who are different and calls them “weird.”
- Frequently teases other kids and does not stop when asked.
- Comes home from school with extra money or new items. This may be a sign that they are taking things from other children at school.
It is not easy to think that your child may be the bully, but a recent study showed that 1 out of 5 children (in grades 6-10) admit that they bullied someone at one time. Again, it is important to communicate about the subject of bullying with your children. Discuss about what bullying looks like and how to deal with those issues. In talking with your child you can discover what is bothering them and discuss if seeing a therapist may be helpful.
Discuss What Your Child Can Do if Bullied
First, take the issue of bullying seriously, it is not normative behavior and acknowledging this with your child, as well as assuring them it is not their fault, will help your child feel supported and lets them know they are not alone. Listen calmly and ask questions so you can figure out what is really going on. It can be a challenge, but keeping your own emotions in check may help a child feel more comfortable in discussing the issue. Work together on deciding what is the best way to handle the situation to make the bullying stop.
Tell your child they can report a bullying incident to a trusted adult such as a teacher, yourself, or a police officer. Reassure your child that seeking help for being bullied is not tattling, it is getting appropriate help for the situation. They also may be able to use the buddy system in walking to school or to lunch to avoid the bullying situation. There is power and safety in numbers. A bully is someone who has social power and the buddy system can offset that power.
Keep the Lines of Communication Open
Involve the school administration if your child is experiencing physical violence as a result of bullying at school. Many children believe that getting other people involved will only increase the bullying. Tell your children that speaking out stops bullying. Explain bullying incidents need to be reported to the school and that you will be there to support them through the process. Quick response to early incidents can help curb the bullying. Depending on the severity of the violence, it may also be necessary to bring in law enforcement. In this case, if any cyberbullying has occurred, it’s important to keep copies of these messages to share with anyone assigned to handle your case.
Keep the lines of communication open with your children, expect you may have to have more than one conversation. Building your child’s self esteem through encouragement and reminding them that they do not have to put up with physical, emotional, verbal, or sexual behaviors that they are uncomfortable with helps them realize that certain behaviors from other kids is not acceptable. Parental involvement is key, it gives children a support system and an advocate for their well being. 15 Anti-Cyberbullying Resources.
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