Bullying is a much more serious problem than ever before. Your child may have a bully without you even knowing about it. Many children won’t want to talk about it for fear of even worse retaliation. Also, it’s an embarrassing topic. There are signs you can look for, though.
Counselors provide several red flags to look out for if you suspect your kid is a victim of bullying.
Red Flags That Reveal Your Child’s the Victim of a Bully
1. Signs of Physical Altercations
Every kid gets injured. It’s a part of growing up. Children might get hurt from playing sports, playing with friends, or learning some valuable life lessons. However, you should keep your eyes open if you notice that your child seems to come home with physical injuries or ripped clothing more often than usual.
If you do notice injuries, ask your child what happened in a non-confrontational way. You should also keep your eye open for your kid, trying to cover up their bruises. You might notice them wearing long sleeves in summer or refusing to wear clothes that show off their body when they usually would wear those clothes.
2. Drastic Change in Friendships
Most children don’t appreciate it when parents take too much of an interest in their child’s friendships. However, you probably notice who they hang out with most often. Friendships change for many reasons, and one of the reasons could be bullying. Your kid might not be included in their old group anymore. This exclusion could be causing them stress. The group of friends may even be bullying them, causing your kid to back away from them. Feel free to ask your kid about old friends.
However, keep in mind that the separation might be for the best. Encourage new friendships that appear healthy. Offer support but don’t pry about friendships that have seemingly dissolved.
3. Going to Extreme Lengths to Avoid School
Not many teens and preteens want to go to school every day. Who wouldn’t prefer to stay home and play on their phones all day? Your child may even be known to fake sick to avoid going to school. However, you should take notice when it gets more and more dangerous. If your kid tries to avoid school every single day or start crying and throwing a tantrum when you make them go, they may be avoiding something or someone at school.
While challenging, ask them directly if there is a reason they are so reluctant to go to school. Some children may even desperately try to change schools as a sign of bullying happening. While you can’t allow your child to skip school, you should take the time to talk to them about the issues they may be having.
4. They Start Bullying
When someone gets bullied, they may start to get extremely defensive with their bullies. Instead of taking the bullying, they may decide it’s time to fight back and even become a bully themselves. In some cases, if they don’t feel confident enough to challenge their bully, they may start to attack easier targets around them to make themselves feel better. You need to make it clear that the behavior is wrong and punish them appropriately.
However, you should also talk to them about their actions. You may discover where it’s coming from. If you get to the bottom of the problem, they may also stop bullying others. Many bullies will be too embarrassed or too nervous to explain the real problem. Don’t be afraid to take your kid to a therapist if you think they will have a better chance of getting your kids to talk.
5. Low Self-Esteem
As parents, we have a responsibility to help build our child’s self-esteem. We do this every single day by encouraging them when they do well in school or sports and teaching them to love themselves. However, some children may still seem to have extremely low self-esteem. Many times, this can be because other children are making fun of them at school.
Does your kid always make comments about how bad they look or how dumb they are? When you hear this, immediately correct them.
Tell them they are beautiful and smart. Help them by giving them tools that might give them more confidence in those problem areas. Then, take the time to ask them why they would think so poorly about themselves. Hopefully, they will open up and tell you about any insults being hurled at them at school.
6. Unhealthy Relationship with Social Media
Everyone is glued to their phones nowadays. Most of the time, teens are joking with their friends and posting funny pictures and videos. They may also be keeping tabs on other friends to see what they are doing. Someone who is excluded by peers may stay glued to their phone to see what they are missing out on.
They may also pay excessive attention to their phone if they are being made fun of on social media or fighting with people on social media. On the other end of the spectrum, some children may delete social media accounts all together to avoid people commenting mean things on the stuff they post.
Either way, it’s good to talk to your child about their social media habits. If they insist that there is nothing terrible happening, believe them. However, if they still have a social media account, it’s a good idea to be friends with them so that you can see what’s happening for yourself.
7. Drastic Change in Eating Habits
As children get older, they may become more aware of their weight. If your kid is overweight or underweight, they might even get made fun of for their appearance. In this case, it can cause a kid to change their eating patterns. If your kid avoiding eating at dinner? Are they eating more than ever?
Small changes may be related to regular changes in appetite with growth. Some changes may even be useful if your child is eating healthier. However, there is a fine line between eating healthy and being unhealthy. While you don’t need to force sweets or french fries down their throat, you want to ensure they eat. You also want to talk to them about how to be healthy.
8. Change in Appearance
Many of us go through a period in our younger years, where we experiment with our appearance. It’s quite natural to try new hairstyles and clothing. However, some children do it to avoid getting bullied. Instead of leaving them to work on their appearance on their own, it’s essential to be supportive.
While you don’t want your kid to think they should change their appearance to make others happy, the new look can boost their self-esteem. You don’t want to take that away with them. Even if it’s a style that you don’t particularly like for them, offer support.
9. Losing Valuable Items/Asking For Extra Lunch Money
Theft is a serious crime. Many young people don’t understand how serious the crime is. A bully may steal from other kids to assert dominance and simply because they want whatever item they took. If you bought your child a cool new gadget, they would probably bring it to school. If they don’t come back with it, they will probably tell you they lost it or something similar. This could be true. However, when it happens over and over again, it could be a sign that someone else is stealing from them.
They may not want to tell you to avoid being called a snitch or avoiding getting beat up. Encourage them not to take items to school anymore. If you give your kid money for lunch every day, they may have this stolen from them. To still be able to eat that day, they will probably ask for additional lunch money. Ask to see what they are spending their money on at lunch.
10. Trouble Sleeping
A lack of sleep or trouble sleeping can be the result of severe anxiety. Your kid may lie in bed, worrying about what will happen when they have to see a bully at school the next day. The tension and lack of sleep may also prevent the kid from doing as well in school.
While many parents may take their kid to the doctor to help them with sleep medication or another medical solution, that might not get to the root of the problem. Try to get them to a therapist or work with people at the school to help come up with a solution. When you work together, your kid will see that they have a robust support system. Hopefully, they’ll be able to sleep normally again.
Having a bully at school is a terrible experience. The social dynamics in school are unique, and it’s something that your kid will need to learn to handle. It can be hard to watch them struggle on their own. Do your best to show your love and support. Work with other adults at your child’s school to find the best solution possible.