Spotting the problem and knowing exactly how to address it can be confusing and frustrating, especially since bullying can take so many different forms.
It could be physical (hitting, punching, beating), verbal (teasing, name-calling, threats), emotional (intimidation using gestures, social exclusion, threats), sexual, bullying, cyberbullying (online harassment, hate messages, threats, impersonation, and other digital abuse), and so on.
Here’s how to go about it:
Telling Signs That Your Child Is Being Bullied
- Unexplained physical marks, cuts, bruises, and scratches
- Your child comes home with torn, damaged, or missing pieces of clothing, books, toys, etc.
- Seems afraid of going to school, walking to and from school, riding the school bus, or taking part in organized activities with peers
- Finds or makes up excuses as to why they can’t go to school
- Takes a long out of the way route when walking to or from school
- Has lost interest in schoolwork or suddenly begins to do poorly in school
- Appears sad, moody, teary, or depressed when he or she comes home
- Complains frequently of headaches, stomachaches, or other physical ailments
- Dreads being left alone
- Has trouble sleeping or has frequent bad dreams
- Experiences a loss of appetite
- Appears anxious and suffers from low self-esteem
- Suddenly sullen, withdrawn, evasive; remarks about feeling lonely
- Comes home starving as many bullies will steal food or lunch money
- Afraid to use public bathrooms as bullying often occurs in these locations
- Academic decline
PS: Children with disabilities may be at a higher risk of being bullied than other kids.
What To Do If You Suspect Your Child Is Being Bullied At School
The above are classic signs of bullying but are also signs of other abuse as well.
If your child displays any of these signs talk with them and talk with the school staff to have more knowledge about what could be going on.
When you’re having the talk with your child, don’t just ask if they’re being bullied.
A better way to approach it is to ask open-ended questions like:
- “I’ve heard a lot about bullying in the news. Is that going on at your school too?”
- “Are there any kids at your school who tease you in a mean way?”
- “Are there any kids at school who you do not like very much? Why don’t you like them? Do they ever pick on you or leave you out of things?”
- “Who do you sit with at lunch and on the bus?”
Share Your Concerns About Your Child And Ask Their Teacher With Questions As:
- “How does my child relate with other students in his/her class?”
- “With whom does he/she spend free time?”
- “Have you noticed or ever suspected that my child is being bullied by other students?” Offer some examples of some ways that kids can be bullied so the teacher fully understands that you’re not focused on one form of bullying
- If you are not comfortable talking with your child’s teacher, or not satisfied with the conversation, make an appointment to meet with your child’s guidance counselor or school administrator to discuss these concerns
- If you believe your child is being bullied, you have to take quick action as bullying can have serious effects on kids and teens
When you conclude your inquiries and you confirm that your child is being bullied, try not to over-react.
Calmly assure them that you love them that this is not their fault, and you will help them. Let them understand that they can talk to you about anything, then go ahead to:
1. Talk To Your Child About Bullying
This will help your child learn what bullying is so they can spot the behavior in themselves or others.
Teach them to know that bullying is not okay, and ask them to tell you if they see it happening or experience it themselves.
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If your child is reluctant to open up to you, watching TV programs, movies, or reading a book to them that feature bullying can make it easier to bring up the subject.
2. Talk To A School Administrator That Your Child Trusts
Before you progress to the school, ask your child which teacher or administrator they think you should tell.
They may worry that certain people won’t believe them, so, let your child direct the process so they feel comfortable.
They may have a better relationship with a certain teacher or administrator, which will make your job easier.
3. Promote Positive Body Language
As young as age 3, your child is ready to learn tricks that will make him/her a less inviting target.
Tell your child to practice looking at the color of her friends’ eyes and to do the same thing when she’s talking to a child who’s bothering them,”.
This will force her to hold her head up, appear and be more confident.
Practice making sad, happy, and brave faces and tell them to switch to ‘brave’ if they’re someone is bothering them.
Because in the end, how you look when you encounter a bully is more important than what you say.
4. Keep An Open Line Of Communication
In a calm, friendly tone, check in with your kids every day about how things are going at school, and create a nurturing climate so he/she isn’t afraid to tell you if something’s wrong.
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Orient them that his/her safety and well-being are important and that they should immediately talk to an adult about any problems if you’re not around.
5. Teach Coping Skills Against Being Bullied
If your child is being bullied, remind him that it’s not his fault; he is not alone, and you are there to help.
It is important for kids to identify their feelings so they can communicate what’s going on.
Hence, from time to time, communicate your own feelings to them.
What you shouldn’t do, no matter your child’s age, is assume that it is normal peer stuff that will work itself out.
Helping your child deal with a bully will build confidence now and in the long run, and prevent a difficult situation from escalating.
6. Build Your Child’s Confidence
The better your child feels about him/herself, the less likely the bullying will affect their self-esteem.
Encourage them to indulge in hobbies, extracurricular activities, and social situations that bring out the best in them.
Tell your child the unique qualities you love about them and reinforce positive behaviors that you’d like to see more.
Fight the tendency to focus on negative situations, because kids actually listen better when you reinforce their good behaviours.
Praising your child’s strengths and encouraging healthy connections with others can affect self-esteem, increase your kids’ long-term confidence, and deflate any potential bullying situations.
7. Contact The Bully’s Parents
Seemingly uncomfortable as this may be for some individuals, it is the right approach for persistent acts of intimidation.
You’ll find that a lot of parents will be receptive to working in a cooperative manner with you, as having a bully of a child is not something admirable.
You can, with the school admin’s help, set up a physical meeting with them. Let’s say when they come to pick up their child or call or e-mail them in a non-confrontational way, making it clear that your goal is to resolve the matter together. You might say things like:
“I am reaching out because my son has come home from school feeling upset every day this week.
“He tells me that Matthew has called him names and excluded him from games at the playground.
“I don’t know whether Matthew has mentioned any of this, but I’d like us to help them get along better.
“Is this something you’re open to?”
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