10 Signs your child is being bullied
Posted on October 26 2017
Kids find it hard to speak up easily especially when they may feel that their parent or teacher may accuse them, get angry or judge them for an act they’re not even responsible for. Showing signs of depression and anxiety are the main red flags that could indicate your child is a victim of bullying.
What is Bullying?
Simply defined, “bullying is intentional, aggressive and repeated behaviour that involves an imbalance of power or strength.” Your child may be facing verbal or emotional intimidation, physical acts of aggression (punching, hitting, kicking), harmful threatening or teasing. Unfortunately, children with disabilities or special needs could be at a higher risk of being bullied.
Here are 10 signs to look out for if your child is a victim of any type of bullying:
- They return home from school with unexplained bruises
As much as parents would not want to see their child hurt, it’s advisable to not ignore such signs. A bruise or scratch from falling on the playground will be common, and your child will willingly tell you about it (either with a laugh or a desire to be comforted). But if your child dismisses it or prefers avoiding the topic, it’s better to see if there are other reasons at play.
- They have broken or missing possessions
Your child would be already scared or petrified, so it’s important to not shout at them or make them feel guilty. Try to find out where their book, toy or clothes got ruined or went missing without intimidating them.
- They become withdrawn and avoid talking to others
Apart from physical symptoms, a change in the child's emotional behaviour can signal a problem. Observe your child's mood after he/she returns from school or the playground, and pay attention to any mood swings. Kids are always prone to mood swings just like adults, so use your instinct to gauge whether your child is behaving out of character too often or just once in a while.
- Their eating habits change
Either children will skip their meals or eat too much (binge eat) because their emotions get the better of them. Children sometimes give up their packed lunch to the perpetrator, to avoid being bullied. Or they may overeat to curb their panic and anxiety.
- They become aggressive at home (other behavioural changes)
Children at different stages exhibit defiance or rebellion, but be cautious if your kid is showing uncontrollable rage or aggression. With no way to lash out against the bullying incidents, your child may internalize everything and explode at home, on parents or siblings.
- They start sleeping poorly or wetting the bed
Anxiety often translates into bed wetting (which can lead to an embarrassed child) or nightmares, which your child may or may not reveal to you. Anxious children tend to mull in their own minds and are afraid of being judged or called out on the actual problem. Lack of sleep can directly be linked to poor grades, trouble paying attention and aloofness.
- They complain of headaches or stomach-aches or other unusual illnesses
That sudden observation that your child “feels sick” but doesn't show any obvious signs of illness, could be an alarm bell. Bullied children also make up reasons to avoid going to school, when they used to enjoy it once upon a time.
- They worry about going to school or give an excuse to skip school
It’s normal for kids to grumble about going to school after a summer holiday or a long break. That’s just them being kids! What could be a warning sign is if they suddenly want to not go anymore in the middle of a school year. This could mean they want to avoid being hurt or avoid facing the perpetrator or incident that disturbs them.
- They suddenly perform less well at school or sports
Your child may be the kind who loves school work or does well/average in school subjects. He/she may also be a team player in sports. However, once bullying starts, low achievement in school is often observed. Students that are constantly bullied get poorer grades and participate less in class discussions. Sometimes, teachers mistake this for lack of motivation or discipline, and the child is scolded for this behaviour.
- They are disinterested in usual hobbies or activities
A child who is always at the top of his game, in academic or extracurricular activities, will rarely slow down, unless the reason is as serious as bullying. A bullied child starts feeling she is not good enough and has difficulty focusing or concentrating on things she used to love doing earlier.
How to Deal with Bullying?
As adults, we may not realize how painful bullying can be on children. Bullying can affect the child's sense of confidence, self-worth and security. Once bullying is identified, take necessary action to stop the bullying. It is important to work together with the school and other involved parties (parents of other kids, maybe) to resolve the situation and protect your child, without affecting his/her routine or causing public embarrassment. Equip your child to handle/face the bully next time it was to occur, and make him or her feel comfortable and safe to talk about these instances with you or the teacher.
It’s also essential to check whether the above signs could be a result of something besides bullying. For example, is something else bothering them? Do they witness conflicts or arguments in the family, which is causing them to withdraw or feel scared? Either way, it’s important to keep an eye out for such signs and understand the reasons behind them.
Children are cleverer than we give them credit for, so it’s best to avoid underestimating their feelings or behaviours. As a parent, you know your child best – his interests and dislikes, his moods and reactions, the reasons behind certain tantrums. Always keep the door open for conversation or confidential discussion and avoid dismissing or trivializing any issue he/she may come to you with. Remember, at that time, you are your child’s security blanket, and this should not be taken lightly.
Author: Sneha Bhat
About: Sneha is an independent writer and book editor who loves good food, good design and a fantastic cup of tea. When she's not telling stories, she enjoys yoga and reading.