One of the biggest fears you can have as a parent is seeing your child get bullied. Being bullied can have a profound effect on a child’s self esteem, academic performance and mental state. Bullying is never okay, but the unfortunate truth is, kids can be mean and it’s not always easy to see the signs. Kids who get bullied may not be upfront about it for fear of humiliation or not wanting the bully to know they’re “tattling” on them. If you have a feeling your child is being bullied, we feel for you, and we’ve rounded up 12 signs your child is being bullied and ways you can help them.
12 Signs Your Child is Being Bullied
1. Reluctance to go to school in the morning
2. Frequent headaches and stomachaches
3. Loss or changes in friendships
4. Trouble sleeping at night
5. Sudden change in eating habits, like skipping meals or binge eating
6. Crying or intense emotional reactions towards school or social activities
7. Declining grades; loss of interest in schoolwork
8. Getting upset after phone calls or text messages
9. Less talkative or social at home than they usually are
10. Becoming reactive with siblings and other kids
11. Obsession with or withdrawal from devices
12. Torn clothing or physical marks; unexplained injuries
8 Ways to Help a Child Who is Being Bullied
1. Talk to Your Child
It can be a sensitive subject, but it’s important to talk to your child if you suspect they’re being bullied. Be as tender as you can about it. If you don’t want to come right out and ask if they’re being bullied, you can start out phrasing it in another way, such as “I’ve heard a lot about bullying on the news and social media, is that going on in your school?” or “I’m worried about you. Are there any kids who are mean to you at school or exclude you on purpose?”. Try to get the conversation going and make them feel as comfortable as possible to see if they’ll open up to you about it.
2. Offer Support
It’s so important that your child keeps talking to you about the situation and knows you support them. Check in with your kids daily about how things are going at school and create a nurturing climate so they aren’t afraid to tell you if something’s going on.
If it’s clear they’re being bullied, make sure you tell them it’s not their fault and it’s not because they’re weak or because there’s anything wrong with them. Let them know that bullying is less about the victim and more about the bully. They need to know that their safety and well-being are important and that they should always talk to an adult about their problems, big or small.
3. Advise Them to Walk Away or Ignore the Bully
If possible, they should try to remove themselves from the situation as quickly as possible and try not to show anger or fear in the moment. Let them know that ignoring the bully is usually the best option.
Kids who bully often pick on those who are responsive (get upset, cry, lash out), so if they walk away to a safer place, they’re basically saying they’re not going to entertain being teased, and it doesn’t matter to them. Sometimes this is all you need to end a bullying situation entirely, but in other instances, it will take more action.
4. Try Role Playing
It’s important to teach your child how to react to a bully incase walking away is not an option. This is where role playing can come in very handy. Role playing is a great way to build confidence and empower your child to deal with challenges.
You can play the bully and your child can practice different responses until they feel confident handling bully situations. Responses should be simple and direct like “leave me alone”, “aren’t you tired of this yet?” or “what you’re doing is not ok”. This is effective because it turns the table on the person doing the bullying, calling them out in the moment.
5. Reach Out to Someone at Their School
Most schools take bullying very seriously, so be sure to communicate with your child’s school and report any bullying incidents. The school staff may not know what’s going on, so it’s important to make them aware so they can monitor it appropriately and get involved if need be. Talk to a teacher, guidance counsellor, principal or school administrator and make sure to follow up with the school to see what actions are being taken.
6. Build Your Child’s Confidence
The more confident your child feels, the less the bullying will affect their self esteem. Encourage hobbies, sports and extracurricular activities that your child really enjoys and is good at doing.
The more positive the experience, the better they’ll feel about themself. Honour their strengths and encourage healthy connections with others in these activities. They may be able to create an amazing, supportive community outside of school that makes them feel more confident day to day.
7. Strength in Numbers
Suggest your child should plan to walk with a friend in areas where they’re likely to be confronted, such as the bathroom, at recess, or in between classes. It’s more intimidating for a bully to single you out when you have a friend by your side. If your child and their “buddy” are willing to stand up for each other, it could lessen the interactions with the bully.
8. Encourage Your Child to Be an Upstander
Being an upstander, rather than a passive bystander, means a child takes positive action when they see a friend or other student being bullied. Another kid speaking up against bullying and not just watching it happen can be so powerful and will inspire others to stand up against the bully as well. This can lead to other kids standing up for your child when they see them getting bullied and can really help to stop the situation overall.
Knowing that your child is being bullied is a hard pill to swallow. We hope these signs of what to look out for and tips on how to help are useful.
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