If your child is being verbally or physically abused or is constantly being harassed by a peer(s), she is being bullied and immediate steps need to be taken to stop it. Bullying comes in many different forms and may be hard to pinpoint at first, but once you learn the signs to look for in your child, you will be able to intervene and take action before the problem escalates.
The following list is a small sampling of behaviors that a bullied child may be exhibiting. Of course, you may be noticing other symptoms—besides those listed—that are not typical of your child. You know your child best and will easily notice if she is acting a little off. The most common signs to look for in a child being bullied are:
- Acting depressed, withdrawn, and lonely
- Having bruises, cuts, scrapes, ripped clothes, or physical marks that the child cannot explain
- Doesn’t want to go to school anymore or doesn’t want you to leave him alone
- Having trouble sleeping at night, having nightmares, or is wetting the bed
- Eating a lot when she gets home from school (bullies may be stealing her lunch money) or not eating (because she is sad)
- Drop in grades and cannot stay focused
- Starts to bully younger siblings or kids
If your child begins to show any of the above signs and symptoms, immediately begin investigating and ask questions. The following steps will assist you in handling the problem right away.
Start talking. If your child is being bullied, he may be embarrassed to tell you or talk about it. Get the conversation rolling by reminding your child that you are always available to talk and will never judge him. Explain that you have been noticing that he hasn’t been acting like himself lately and ask if there is anything that he needs to talk about or if you can help in any way.
Encourage her to speak up for herself before you step-in. Help your child learn new habits in asserting herself in a safe way that makes her less likely to be targeted. Teach her to hold her head up high, stay calm (do not show a bully that she’s upsetting you), and walk away from the bully or scene. Practicing these techniques will boost your child’s self-confidence and hopefully fend the bully off (it’s no fun for a bully if the victim does not react).
Advocate for your child and take action if the bullying is more serious. If you fear that your child is in danger, skip the previous step and start informing all of the adults in your child’s life of the situation and work together on a solution. Tell his teachers, coaches, bus driver, your pediatrician, the school nurse, and any other authority figure that you think may be able to help you. Ask what steps can be taken to ensure your child’s safety and stop the bullying.
Demand protection. Contact your child’s principal, the school board, superintendent, and/or the police and ask what they are going to do to protect your child.
Implement a Plan for Your Child
Have your child follow these simple steps to keep him safe from bullies:
- Do not go anywhere alone. Hang out with a large group of people or someone who is bigger that can help look out for him and intimidate a bully.
- Always be aware of your surroundings and do not go anywhere that a bully may be. Remind her to take a different route home, but never go alone.
- Talk to an adult that you trust and don’t ever be afraid to seek help if you don’t feel safe.