Signs of Bullying in Your Child or Teenager
January 30, 2024
If you have a child who is open with you and tells you everything, then they might tell you that they are being bullied. For example, your child might say that other children are teasing them, making fun of them, putting them down, laughing at them, calling them names, ignoring them, physically hurting them, or threatening them.
If your child doesn’t say anything and you are worried they might be experiencing bullying in school, here are some signs to look out for:
- Emotional Changes:
- Sudden mood swings
- Increased irritability, anger, always upset or teary.
- Anxiety or fear, especially about going to school.
- Unexplained sadness or depression.
- Changes in sleep patterns, such as difficulty sleeping or nightmares.
- be unusually anxious or nervous.
- be withdrawn or secretive.
- ask you for money or extra lunch box treats.
- Behavioral Changes:
- Withdrawal from friends and family, starts sitting alone or avoids social activities.
- Reluctance to go to school or a sudden decline in academic performance.
- Changes in eating habits, such as loss of appetite or overeating.
- Stays close to teachers during breaks.
- have difficulty asking or answering questions in class.
- stop taking part in school activities.
- Physical Symptoms:
- Frequent headaches or stomachaches
- Complaints of feeling unwell without any apparent cause
- Changes in weight
- bruises, cuts and scratches
- torn clothes
- missing property
- poor eating or sleeping
- Unexplained injuries or damaged belongings
- Social Isolation:
- Difficulty making or maintaining friendships.
- Spending more time alone than usual
- being excluded at lunch and recess
- losing contact with classmates after school
- being chosen last for teams and games.
- Changes in Communication:
- Reluctance to talk about their day or school experiences.
- Avoidance of discussing social interactions or friendships.
- A sudden decrease in communication with certain friends.
- Loss of Interest:
- Decreased interest in activities they used to enjoy like parties.
- Loss of self-esteem or confidence.
- Avoidance of certain places or routes to and from school.
- Expressing Fear or Anxiety:
- Expressing fear of going to school or specific places.
- Anxiety about using social media or other online platforms.
- Fearful or hesitant behavior in the presence of certain individuals.
- Changes in Academic Performance:
- Decline in grades or academic performance.
- Loss of interest in schoolwork or extracurricular activities.
- Unexplained Possession Changes:
- Missing or damaged personal items, school supplies, or clothing.
- Requests for extra money, snacks, or sudden loss of lunch money.
It’s important to note that these signs don’t necessarily confirm bullying, but they should raise concerns and prompt further investigation. If you suspect your child is being bullied, it’s crucial to communicate openly with them, contact school authorities, and consider seeking support from professionals such as teachers, counselors, or psychologists.
A few conversation starters for older children and pre-teens
- What did you do at lunchtime today?
- Is there anyone at school you don’t like? Why?
- Are you looking forward to going to school tomorrow?
- If you could change one thing about school or other kids, what would it be?
A few conversation starters for teenagers
- What did you do at lunchtime today?
- Who do you find easy to hang out with?
- Is there anyone you avoid at school? Why?
- What’s happening on your social media? Does anyone make you feel uncomfortable with their posts?
What to do when children and teenagers are being bullied
Children and teenagers should never be left to sort out bullying on their own. It can hurt them a lot, in the short and long term. It is important for you to step in quickly to stop bullying before it damages your child’s confidence.
- Listen and reassure them that coming to you was the right thing to do. Try and establish the facts. It can be helpful to keep a diary of events to share with the school or college.
- Assure them that the bullying is not their fault and that they have family that will support them. Reassure them that you will not take any action without discussing it with them first.
- Don’t encourage retaliation, such as violent actions to bullying. It is important for children to avoid hitting or punching an abusive peer. Reacting that way has negative and unpredictable results, they may be hurt even further, and find they are labelled as the problem. Rather suggest that they walk away and seek help.
- Find out what your child wants to happen next. Help to identify the choices open to them; the potential next steps to take; and the skills they may have to help solve the problems.
- Encourage your child to get involved in activities that build their confidence and esteem and help them to form friendships outside of school.
- Discuss the situation with your child’s teacher or Headteacher. Every child has a right to a safe environment in which to learn and play. Schools must have a behaviour policy which sets out the measures that will be taken to prevent all forms of bullying between pupils.