It is on the news. It is on the web. It is in your child’s school. You know that bullying is a problem and are confident you could help your child if they were being bullied. You may be right; but the reality is, you might not even know that it’s happening. Studies have shown that although almost 50% of children are bullied at some point in their life, less than half of them will talk to their parents about what is happening. If the bullying is happening in cyberspace, that drops to 5% according to StopCyberBullying.org. In order to protect your child, you need to know what to watch for and when to step in and take a stand for your child while teaching them to stand up for themselves.
Here are 7 signs your child may be the victim of bullying.
1. They Stop Being Social
Tweens and teens are, by their very nature, social creatures. They have entered the part of their adolescence when the opinions of friends and peers become more important than those of their parents and families. If your formerly social teen suddenly stops spending hours on the phone, texting at dinner, posting everything to Facebook, or playing their favorite online game, you should take that as a big red flag. Watch for a suddenly shrinking social circle, unwillingness to participate in activities like dance classes, sports, youth groups, or extracurricular activities they have always enjoyed.
2. Acting Out at Home
When teens are unhappy, stressed, or struggling with issues they can’t fix, like being the victim of a bully, they often lash out at the people who love them like parents and siblings. This is a normal response called transference and is a red flag for parents. Pay attention if your teenager’s attitude toward family members radically changes and they start lashing out angrily at younger brothers and sisters or you.
3. Avoiding School or Other Places
Teens who suddenly resist going to school without any stated reason may be struggling with a bully. This holds true for other places as well, especially if it is a place where they generally spend time with their friends or other teens their age.
4. Grades Take a Nosedive
If your A and B student suddenly starts getting D’s and F’s, you may need to consider that they are being bullied before exacerbating the problem by getting angry, imposing punishments, or otherwise responding to the grades themselves.
5. Unexplained Illnesses
If your otherwise healthy teen suddenly seems to be sick with generalized, non-specific symptoms all the time, it can be a sign that they are being bullied. It is important to have them checked out by their pediatrician or family doctor in order to rule out any medical conditions, but if the doctor can’t find an underlying cause, it may be the stress of being bullied. Feeling unwell can also give teens a way to avoid going to events or interacting with people, which is another red flag.
6. Changes in Habits or Routines
If your child’s eating habits, sleeping habits, or other routines radically change overnight, it may be a red flag that they are being victimized by a bully. Teens may suddenly eat much more, stop eating, sleep all the time, have trouble sleeping, and/or experience nightmares as a result of being bullied.
7. Depressed, Hopeless, Suicidal
Teens who are being bullied can become very depressed and sad and express a feeling of hopelessness about the world and their lives. They may talk about suicide and blame themselves for things that are not their fault. While teenagers can be moody, wild shifts in mood accompanied by changes in outlook and attitude may be more than just hormones.
If you suspect your child is being bullied, talk to them, talk to their medical provider, talk to the school, and keep talking until you feel confident that your child’s well-being is not being endangered by another child’s bullying behavior. If bullying is confirmed, you will want to find a counselor who can also help you and your teen process the effects of bullying on their self esteem.
- What are the signs that a child is bullying others? (education.com)
- I Think My Child Is A Bully – What Should I Do? (education.com)
- Teens Speak Out About Bullying (foxnews.com)