How to spot if your child is being bullied – and what to do next
It’s an unfortunate but true fact of life – bullying is common at all ages and in all walks of life. Childhood and teenage years are no different. In fact, as children’s social skills develop and cliques form during the teen years, bullying is in fact more likely than at many other life stages.
As a parent, you’ll naturally want to do your best to protect your child. With that in mind, we’ve put together some tips on spotting the signs and how to best approach your child to defuse the situation and help resolve it safely.
Why does bullying happen?
As children develop socially, they may go through a stage of having one ‘best friend’ to focus all their attention on. As well as this, as children get older they become more likely to choose friends with shared common interests rather than the more indiscriminate way younger children choose playmates, with social groups forming as a result. Due to this, some children will be left out – or even picked on as a result of changing power dynamics in different social circles.
How can I tell if my child is being bullied?
There are some physical signs that your child may be experiencing bullying from their peers at home or at school. They include:
● Torn, damaged or missing clothing
● Mysteriously lost items or money
● Unexplained scratches or bruises
There are also some emotional signs that all may not be well with your child as a result of bullying. These include:
● Feeling irritable, moody or becoming easily upset
● Suddenly wanting to take a different route to school or other unexplained changes to routine
● Lack of interest in school or other activities they previously enjoyed
● Sudden difficulty with homework
Of course, these days there is more to watch out for than the classic schoolyard bullying – kids are also being cyberbullied through social media on their smartphones even outside of the school environment. Some tell-tale cyberbullying signs include:
● Being unwilling to explain what they are doing online
● Becoming upset after being online or using their phone
What can I do to help my child?
If you think your child is being bullied, it can be a distressing time for you as a parent. However, it’s important to keep as calm as possible when addressing the situation.
Your first port of call might be opening up the lines of communication with your child. Being bullied will be something very sensitive and upsetting for them, so a good tactic might be to bring it up indirectly – for example by asking them what they think about a certain scene on TV to try and broach the subject.
Remind them that you’re always there and available to talk if they have something they need to tell you.
If they do open up to you about their experience of being bullied, listen as calmly as possible and offer comfort. They might be slow to tell you details because they are embarrassed, so don’t react too strongly at first, as they might retreat. Give them lots of praise for speaking up and let them know you appreciate them coming to you.
Advise them to ignore the bully, avoid the people involved if possible, buddy up, tell an adult whenever they can, and talk about it whenever they need to. After being bullied, bear in mind your child may need to work on their confidence – so think about joining them up for after-school activities they enjoy.
Next steps might be chatting to their teachers or other parents to let them know of the situation so they can monitor it themselves too. Many schools have anti-bullying policies in place, so you could also ask about these.
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