One part of growing up that no parents want to have happened to their kid is bullying. You can teach them all you possibly can about the world and how to communicate with others, but sometimes, through no fault of their own, kids are picked on by their peers.
Depending on your kid’s personality, you might know right away that something is wrong, but some kids might not tell their parents about being bullied at first. There’re many reasons they might avoid talking about it. They might be ashamed of being bullied, or they are scared that grownups might not take them seriously. They could also be afraid of being labeled a tattletale and losing the respect of their friends.
Even if you’ve established an atmosphere of trust in your family, it might be hard for them to tell you what’s going on. So make sure to keep an eye out for these warning signs of bullying.
1. More withdrawn than usual
You might chalk it up to pre-teen hormones, but sometimes a sign of bullying is that a kid becomes more withdrawn from family activities and friends. They might immediately go to their room after getting home from school to avoid talking about their day, or shrug their shoulders when you ask them how they’re doing.
2. Losing interest in school and hobbies
Bullying can affect a kids school work as much as it affects their self-esteem. If you’ve noticed a drop in grades, or your kid has become less interested in the hobbies they usually love, check in with them to see how they are doing emotionally.
3. “My Tummy Hurts”
Even adults have a hard time recognizing anxiety at times, and it’s no different for kids. Anxiety from being bullied can cause stomach aches, headaches, and other physical symptoms. Kids may even ask to stay home from school because they don’t feel good. If they complain about aches and pains around the same time as they routinely go to school or interact with certain people, make note of that.
4. Lack of confidence in well-known tasks and activities
A kid’s self-esteem can take a big hit when they are being bullied. If you notice that they are unsure of themselves and their abilities all of a sudden, it might be a sign of a bigger issue. They may also talk with an increased amount of negativity toward the world, or even themselves.
5. Injuries, damaged and “lost” belongings
Even though kids are more often bullied in emotional ways by their peers, physical bullying is still a big concern for parents. There are some telltale signs to look out for when a bully is being physical with your kid. They could have a lot more scrapes than usual, bruises, or even damaged clothing. Kids might try to cover up damage to belongings by claiming they were lost or in an accident. If you suspect that your kid has been injured by a bully, do not hesitate to reach out to your school administration and make your concerns known, and talk to authorities.
You’ve seen signs of bullying. What next?
Your first reaction to seeing signs that your kid is being bullied might be anger at the bullies and adults at school who have failed to protect them. It’s a valid emotion, but your kid needs reassurance more than anything. Tell them you love them, and remind them that they are amazing, capable people that can do anything they set their mind to. Then, ask them about their lives at school, learn about their friends, and ask if they are having any difficulty at school. Try not to ask directly about bullying, but read between the lines if they are leaving information out or avoiding questions.
Talk to teachers and administration as soon as you suspect your child may be experiencing bullying at school. Regardless if bullying is confirmed or not, look into seeking therapy for your kids. Safeguarding their emotional health and physical safety is the most important duty you have as a parent.