Bullying: Spotting the signs in children

When it comes to bullying, many kids never say a word. Not only do they keep it from their friends, but they also rarely tell the adults in their lives, including their parents. Instead, they often suffer in silence allowing the bullying to escalate. While this fact may be confusing for adults, it makes perfect sense to a young person.

First, bullying is embarrassing and painful for kids. These emotions are compounded when they tell another person that they are being bullied. Also when they recount what happened, they may feel like they are reliving the bullying. Additionally, they may worry that others will agree with the bully or believe that they deserved the treatment.

Second, kids sometimes worry that telling someone will only make the situation worse. And in some cases, this may be true. Retaliation is a very real risk when it comes to bullying. And third, children may fear that their parents or other adults will be disappointed in them. Instead of placing the blame for bullying on the bully, they often shoulder the blame.

Signs That Your Child Is Being Bullied

Consequently, as a parent, you have to be able to recognize the signs that your child is being victimized. You cannot count on them to share the information with you, no matter how solid your relationship is. Here are eight ideas for spotting red flags in your child’s behavior.

Listen to What Your Child is Telling You

Many kids will not actually use the word “bullying” to describe what they are experiencing. Take note if your kids say there has been a lot of “drama” at school or that others are “messing” with them. Ask them to describe what happened and how they felt.

Try to gather the facts surrounding the situation. If your child does confide in you, do not minimize, rationalize or explain away the experience. Assure your kids that they did not cause the bullying. Instead, give them some ideas for overcoming bullying.

Watch for “Vanishing” Friends

As a parent, you are most likely familiar with your kids’ friends. Take notice if your child’s usual friends are no longer calling or inviting them over. Sometimes friendships break up because the kids are growing apart. Other times, vanishing friends can be an indication that bullying is taking place. Ask your kids about their friends. If your child answers, “I have no friends,” that is a major red flag and you need to find out more.

Pay Attention to Your Child’s Moods

Look for a significant change in your child’s typical behavior and personality. Kids who are being bullied will sometimes appear anxious, clingy, sullen or withdrawn. They may also appear sad, moody, teary or depressed, especially after school or after being online. Dig deeper when kids suffer from low self-esteem, blame themselves for things or say they are not good enough.

Self-destructive behaviors like running away from home, cutting, or talking about suicide need to be addressed, whether or not bullying is the root cause.