National Bullying Prevention Month: Five signs your child is being bullied
October is National Bullying Prevention Month, and for parents, it’s important to know the facts around bullying, as well as how it may impact your child.
It is estimated that approximately one in five students experience some type of bullying throughout their school years. Bullying takes many different forms, including verbal, social or physical. Verbal bullying includes threatening harm, teasing, name-calling or inappropriate comments. Social bullying affects a child’s relationships within their peer group such as exclusion from activities, rumors or embarrassing the child in front of friends or classmates. Physical bullying causes harm to a child or their belongings including pushing, hitting or damaging clothes, school supplies or toys.
Bullying often takes place in the school environment before school, after school, during recess or even on the bus or in bathrooms. In recent years, we’ve seen a rise in cyberbullying, which doesn’t need a physical location; it occurs where children tend to gather and interact in an online space, and is usually verbal or social. One of the best ways to prevent bullying is to catch the warning signs early, and address it right away.
Here are five signs that your child may be being bullied:
Change in demeanor – Bullying can affect a child’s attitude and outlook on life. If your child is suddenly sad, depressed, worried or clingy, this could be a warning sign and the cause of the change should be investigated. Also, regularly kind children can become aggressive in other relationships if they are feeling out-of-control or helpless at school. This could manifest in how your child begins to treat you or their siblings.
Injuries or damaged items – Frequent scrapes, cuts and bruises are a telltale sign that something isn’t right. If your child can’t explain or gives minimal explanation on re-occurring injuries it may be a sign of physical bullying. Damaged or missing clothes, shoes and school supplies could also be an indicator of physical bullying.
Feeling sick – When a child doesn’t want to go to school or social gatherings, they may find it easier to say they aren’t feeling well, as opposed to telling you why they don’t want to go. An abrupt increase in headaches or stomachaches may be your child avoiding situations where they don’t feel safe or know the bully will be present.
Eating habits – Watch for drastic changes in your child’s eating habits. Children who have lost their appetite or start binge eating may be experiencing stress caused by bullying and are expressing it through their eating habits. Also, children who come home starving and want more than a snack might be missing lunch due to a bully taking their food or lunch money.
Slipping grades – Concentration can be difficult when your child is worried about what will happen at recess, lunch or after school. A dramatic decline in school performance or grades might point to a bullying situation.
If you discover that your child is being bullied, it’s important to stay calm. Many children don’t confide in adults for fear that they may make the situation worse by engaging with the bully or the bully’s parents. Let your child know that you love them, and that you want to help. Setting up a meeting with your child’s teacher is a good place to start. The teacher may be able to provide more information about the situation, and keep an eye on students in order to intervene on behalf of your child. They could also set up a conference with the bully’s parents and address the situation from a neutral position.
Another great way to help your child is to teach them the skills and build the confidence they need to deal with the bully themselves. This might mean learning what to say and practicing a response to unwanted teasing so they are prepared for the next encounter with the bully. Getting your child involved in an activity might also be helpful. Giving them a place to connect with peers outside the school and building a friend group with common interests could bolster their confidence and give the child a place where they belong. As you go through this process of dealing with the bully together, remember to provide your child with love and support, so they know that they are worth more than the bully’s harmful actions and words.