Every parent is anxious that their children will struggle to make friends at school or in the local area. Bullying can be a major problem for school-aged children, so it is important that they are able to get support from their parents if they need it. However, it can be hard to know what to do if you suspect that your child is being bullied.
Signs of Bullying. Spotting the signs of bullying can help you to address the problem as early as possible. Children may not be keen to tell their parents if they are having problems with bullying, so it might be easier for them to talk about it if you are able to pick up on the problem first.
The following may be signs that your child is being targeted by bullies;
- Changes in personality. If your child suddenly becomes shy and withdrawn, or if they suddenly become more aggressive when they are at home then it could be a sign that they are struggling to cope with something.
- Declining Social Invites. If your child stops accepting social invites or seems very reluctant to attend social events with other children, then this may suggest that there is a reason why your child does not want to attend.
- Changes in Eating Habits. Sudden changes in eating habits can reflect emotional distress. These changes can include under-eating or overeating patterns.
- Frequent Physical Illness. Children may say that they are feeling unwell as a way to avoid going to school. On the other hand, prolonged stress, such as that which is caused by bullying, can also manifest itself through physical ailments.
- Poor Sleep Patterns. Children may have trouble falling asleep in the first place and they may wake up frequently during the night. They may experience troubling nightmares.
- Bedwetting. If your child continues to wet the bed or starts wetting the bed again, this may be a sign that they are struggling to deal with something.
- Bruises, Scratches or Cuts. Physical injuries can be a sign that your child is being physically bullied.
- Missing or Damaged Possessions. If your child “loses” their possessions regularly or if you notice that their possessions are damaged frequently, then this may be a sign that their items are being targeted by bullies.
- Worrying about going to school. Although most children display some reluctance to attend school, if they seem to be worried about attending then this may show that they are afraid of something that is happening there.
- Sudden decline in school grades or achievements. School grades may start to go downhill when children are being bullied. This may be because they are distracted. Some children may intentionally let their grades slide if they think that their success is one of the reasons that they are being targeted.
It is important to note that not all of these signs should be taken as immediate proof that your child is being targeted by bullies. For example, scratches and bruises can have innocent causes, such as falling over in the playground whilst playing a game. Some of these signs could also occur because something else is bothering your child. Major influencing factors which can also cause some of the signs which are listed above include; divorce, separation and a new baby in the family.
How to talk to your child about bullying. If you are worried that your child is being bullied, you should try to talk to them about it. However, it can be difficult to approach the subject with some children, because they may not respond to direct questioning. Rather than asking them directly if they are being bullied, try to give them as many opportunities as possible to open up to you. Share your experiences with them to see if this encourages them to share their own stories.
If your child does decide to share their situation with you, try to avoid putting your emotions into the situation. Getting angry or upset can stop them from sharing more with you, because they may be concerned about “hurting” you any further. Listen to them carefully and hear everything that they have to say to you without jumping to your own conclusions. Ask them how they would like you to help them, rather than rushing to confront teachers or other parents. Never dismiss their emotions as this can prevent further sharing.
Work with your child to come up with strategies to make them feel more confident, but don’t encourage them to physically fight bullies. Growing their confidence in other areas of their lives can help them to become more confident in bullying scenarios. Developing new skills or hobbies outside of the bullying arena will help your child to find a new focus and may allow them to put their problems in perspective.