Your child suddenly seems anxious and has lost interest in attending school or spending time with friends. Is bullying to blame?
Many children who are bullied are afraid to tell their parents, so a bit of detective work may be necessary. Watch for these warning signs in your child:
- Abnormal anxiety
- Bruises, scratches and other unexplained injuries
- Changes in eating and sleeping habits
- “Lost” items, such as lunch money and prized possessions
- Signs of withdrawal, such as asking to stay home from school or skip sports practices, time with friends or other beloved activities
- A sudden drop in grades
- Uncharacteristically lashing out at loved ones or crying before school
- Unexplained physical symptoms, including headaches and stomachaches
In cases of cyberbullying—bullying that occurs on social media and via texts and online messages—teens may also stop answering their phones or using their computers.
To put an end to bullying, kids must be willing to talk about it. Ask your child if he or she has ever witnessed or experienced bullying firsthand. If you have trouble bringing the subject up naturally, The Nemours Foundation recommends asking for your child’s opinions about a bullying scenario seen in a TV show or movie to spur the conversation.
If your child is being bullied, remain calm and notify his or her teacher. Make sure your child understands the importance of sticking with a group of close friends, asking for help when needed and resisting the urge to fight back. Practice coping strategies your child can use to remain calm when facing the bully.
Bullies Need Help, Too
No parent wants to think his or her child is intentionally causing physical or verbal harm to others, but bullies need just as much emotional support as their victims. Your child may be bullying others if he or she:
- Is aggressive or frequently gets into trouble for fighting
- Is preoccupied with maintaining a certain social standing
- Is secretive about online activities
- Spends time with friends who bully others
Some children become bullies because they want to control others or have been victims of bullying or abuse, according to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. Others put their peers down to make themselves feel less insecure or depressed. Talk with your child about the serious consequences of bullying. In some cases, visiting a mental health professional is necessary to help children deal with aggression, insecurity and depression.