10 Bullying Warning Signs Every Parent Should Be Aware Of
As parents, we often have to interpret our children’s unusual actions, particularly when they are unable—or unwilling—to tell us what’s wrong. Maybe you notice a loss of appetite or a change in sleep patterns. You might observe a change in your child’s friendships or a bad attitude about school. And while you could be tempted to attribute any of these behaviors to the normal “ups and downs” of childhood and adolescence, you should consider that they could also be signs that your child is being bullied.
With bullying in the news with alarming frequency, it’s not surprising that national surveys indicate that as many as half of all children are bullied during their school years. Whether the bullying is physical or verbal, or in person or online, it’s a growing problem with an unhealthy emotional impact for both the bully and the victim.
Parents of at least 10 percent of students at Connections Academy schools nationwide say they turned to virtual school because of bullying, according to the annual parent satisfaction survey. Another 35 percent switched their child to virtual school because they were seeking “a safe learning environment.” And bullying isn’t necessarily confined to a particular type of school—it can happen in or out of school, in any setting.
How to Tell if Your Child Is Being Bullied
Following are ten of the most common warning signs that your child is being bullied.
If your child seems moody, sad, or depressed, particularly if there is no apparent cause, pay attention and consider if it could be a symptom of being bullied. The same is true if your child seems angry, frustrated, agitated, or stressed out. Mood changes associated with bullying are usually long-lasting and would appear most evident after school or other activities involving your child’s peers.
Frequent Illness and Injuries.
A recurring pattern of headaches, stomachaches, and other physical ailments—whether real or those you suspect are fake—can signal that a child is being bullied. A student may also visit the school nurse frequently. Another danger sign is the frequent appearance of unexplained cuts, bruises, and scratches.
Declining Grades and Attitude.
A significant change in your student’s attitude about school can be a sign of trouble with a bully. Even before grades are impacted, a loss of interest or enthusiasm for school, or falling behind in schoolwork, can appear. An ordinarily happy child may say that he or she “hates school” and beg to stay home if he or she is being bullied. Other children who are bullied refuse to talk about the events of the school day. Avoiding the school bus, school restrooms, recess, or other places and activities can also signal trouble.
Changes in Eating Habits.
Emotional distress from bullying may increase or decrease your child’s appetite and could result in skipping meals, binge eating, or an overall change in eating habits. Unexpected eating changes can be related to stress or may stem from a bully’s stealing food or lunch money.
If a normally responsible child begins to show a pattern of belongings gone missing or turning up damaged, bullying could be involved.
Stressful bullying situations may also interfere with your child’s sleep patterns. Take note if you child has more trouble than usual getting up in the morning or falling asleep at night. Inconsistencies such as excessive or inadequate amounts of sleep can be a warning sign of bullying, as can recurring nightmares or bedwetting for a child who normally remains dry.
A child who is being bullied may begin to get in trouble more often at home or at school. He or she may behave more aggressively and may even bully siblings or other younger, smaller kids.
Pay attention if your child begins to mention running away or feeling “helpless” or “not good enough.” Sometimes, feelings like these can lead children to attempt to hurt themselves or try substance abuse.
Changes in Computer Usage.
Not all bullying occurs in person, so keep an eye on your student’s computer usage. If your child is the victim of cyberbullying, he or she may suddenly stop using the computer—or begin spending long hours on it. A child who is being cyberbullied may act secretive or nervous about what he or she is doing on social media sites—or may appear upset after texting on the cell phone.
Changes in Socialization.
While children’s friendships can change rapidly, particularly during adolescence, parents should observe whether there’s an overall pattern. If your child appears to be alone or lonely most of the time and avoids peers, friends, family members, and social situations, a bully could be involved. Becoming withdrawn, evasive, fearful, or clingy can also indicate trouble.
Knowledge is power—for parents and students alike—so be sure to talk together about bullying prevention. When in doubt, reach out to counselors and staff at your child’s school to share your concerns and receive advice about talking with your child and overcoming bullying.
If bullying has impacted your family, share your experiences—and how you overcame them—in the comments.