Bullying is an ongoing concern for parents, care givers and teachers. How to tell if your child is being bullied can be difficult, as bullying can take on many forms. The act is a deliberate imbalance of power; and can be physical, emotional, sexual or verbal.
Having a working knowledge of warning signs is essential for supportive parenting. If your child has some of the warning signs below, it is not a guarantee that they are being bullied. Open and honest dialogue with your children will provide more insight into the potential causes of some warning signs.
Below are a variety of warning signs that could signify your child is the victim of bullying:
- Noticing your child has damaged belongings; this can span from clothing, to book bags, to text books, etc.
- Unexplained physical injuries like bruises or cuts
- Tendency to isolate from friends and peers
- An increase in anxiety or fear related to attending school and often will explore opportunities to miss school (i.e. Excuses, faking sick, etc.)
- Changes in sleeping or eating patterns; suffers from frequent nightmares, poor appetite
- Appears sad, upset or angry when returning from school
- Decrease in academic achievement
- Health concerns; most often frequent stomach aches, headaches, etc.
Beginning a discussion with our children about bullying can be challenging, as many kids tend to shy away from disclosing this information. The most essential component is that as a parent you remain calm and supportive, not reactive to what your child discloses.
There are several questions below to guide a conversation related to bullying:
- There has been a lot of bullying in the news lately. How does your school handle bullying? Tell me about a time you saw someone being bullied, or experienced it yourself. How did you handle it?
- I’m worried about [insert behavior/symptom/action]. I’m wondering if you could tell me more about what is going on?
- Tell me about your friends this year. Who are you spending time with, and what do you like about them?
- Who do you spend time with at lunch and recess? Tell me about your bus rides home. With whom do you sit?
- Are there any kids at school who you really don’t like? Why don’t you like them? Do they ever pick on you or leave you out of things?
If your child discloses that they are being bullied, it is essential that you remain calm. Overreaction can result in regret of disclosure or a tendency to limit discussing such content in the future. As a parent, the strongest role you can take if your child is being bullied is to provide support and care, validate to your child that this is not their fault and that you are here to love and support them.
At times, children can be very hesitant about disclosing bullying due to fear of retaliation. If you notice concerning symptoms, but your child denies, it is appropriate to reach out to your student’s teacher and express concern.
The following questions may provide greater insight into your child’s experience during the school day:
- With whom does my child interact on a daily basis?
- Tell me about my child’s peer interactions. Which are going well? Are there any you find concerning?
- Have you noticed any behavioral changes within my child over the past [days, weeks, months]?
- What is one thing my child does very well in school, and what is one concern you have for my child.
If you suspect your child is being bullied, beginning dialogue and providing a safe non-judgmental space is the first step in supporting your child. If you have greater concerns, or have information that your child is being bullied, it is important that this be addressed as soon as possible. Reach out to your school, principals, teachers, and notify them of your concerns. Provide your child with support and listen when needed, and if appropriate, provide the access to a licensed mental health provider for additional care.
NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Milwaukee! If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates!