Can You Spot the Warning Signs of Bullying?

Most kids will likely experience some form of teasing at school, but did you know that bullying is different than occasional name calling, insults, or mocking? Bullying is repeated, aggressive behavior where someone uses power to hurt another person or make them feel bad or intimidated. The power imbalance between bullies and their victims can stem from several factors such as physical strength, age, or popularity. Bullies are stronger than their victims in some way, and they use this to their advantage to overpower others.

Research shows that there can be serious consequences to bullying including low self-esteem, physical injuries, sleep difficulties, headaches, stomach issues, chronic pain, and increased stress and anxiety. It can also negatively affect kids’ academic performance and social interactions, meaning that bullying can impact nearly every facet of a kid’s life.

While we want to do everything possible to protect our kids from bullying, how can we know it’s happening if they don’t tell us? You might assume your child would come tell you if something was wrong, but many kids choose to suffer in silence.

Why Bullied Kids May Stay Silent

  • Fear of it getting worse: Not only do some kids fear retaliation from the bully if their behavior is reported, but they may also worry that their peers will make fun of them for telling on their schoolmate.
  • Feelings of embarrassment: Many kids want to be seen as cool and popular, and admitting to being bullied can make a child feel insecure and embarrassed.
  • Assuming it’s normal: Sometimes, kids can have a hard time recognizing that bullying is happening and will lessen it to teasing.
  • Uncertain of parents’ reaction: Some kids may worry their parents will be disappointed in them if they are being bullied or were unable to handle it themselves.

Warning Signs Your Child Is Being Bullied

Since we know that some kids may not speak up if they’re being bullied, it’s important for us to be aware of the warning signs of bullying. Some are obvious, and some are not.

  • Stolen, lost, or damaged possessions
  • Suddenly not wanting to go to school or ride the bus
  • Changes in appetite
  • Nightmares or trouble sleeping
  • Personality changes including being withdrawn or moody
  • Sudden change in appearance
  • Frequent headaches or stomachaches
  • Change in online behavior due to cyberbullying
  • Participating in bullying behavior
  • Physical signs such as cuts, bruises, scratches, and broken bones

What You Can Do

Talking about bullying is the first step. Let your child know they can come to you for help. Some kids may even begin to discuss problems with bullying if the topic comes up naturally in conversation. You can encourage this by asking leading questions that can give insight into your child’s day at school. Ask if there are any new kids on their bus or if the teacher has trouble with misbehavior in class. This will give them the opportunity to speak about school without forcing them to answer direct questions about bullying.

If you suspect that your child is being bullied, set up a meeting with their teacher, school principal, or guidance counselor to make them aware of the situation so that you can work together to determine a solution. For more helpful tools and tips, visit the K12 Bullying Prevention Resource Hub.

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