Bullying In School: Identifying the Symptoms and Addressing the Problem
Whether your child is getting bullied (or is the bully), bullying is a problem that needs to be addressed sooner rather than later. From verbal teasing to social exclusion to physical attack, bullying has been linked to poor mental health, lack of self-esteem, and a decrease in academic achievement. Studies have shown that those who experience bullying are 5 to 6 times more likely to miss school.
How do you know if your child is being bullied?
There are many warning signs that can indicate a problem at school. Recognizing them is an important first step to taking action. Some common indications of bullying include:
- Unexplainable injuries.
- Lost or destroyed clothing, books, electronics, or personal items important to your child.
- Avoidance of places or situations without a valid reason or excuse (this is often characterized by feigning illness or frequent headaches).
- Changes in eating habits, difficulty sleeping, or frequent nightmares.
- Declining academic performance, loss of interest in school, or panic at the thought of going to school.
- Feelings of helplessness, decreased self-esteem, or self-destructive behaviors.
It can be a challenge to determine whether your child is being bullied (less than 40% of bullying incidents are reported). Children and adolescents often lack transparency about whether they are being bullied at school, as feelings of fear, lack of control, isolation, embarrassment, or worry that there might be backlash from their bully come into play.
“About one-quarter of high school students experienced bullying during the past 12 months”
What if my child IS the bully?
If you think your child is bullying others, it’s important to take action now. Most bullies act the way they do because they are not learning how to resolve conflicts and act appropriately in social situations. If a child bullies, that tendency can stay with them and have a affect through their entire adult lives.
Some common signs that a child is bullying others include:
- Getting into physical and verbal confrontations.
- Belonging to a group of friends who often bully others.
- Increasing aggression and agitation when they don’t get their way.
- Unexplained extra money or new belongings.
- Lack of responsibility for their actions and the tendency to blame others for their problems.
- The tendency to be highly competitive and worry about their reputation and popularity.
As a parent, what can I do to help?
The best method of discovery is conversation. Talk to your children. Ask them questions about their lives, their friends, and their activities. A few strategies include:
- Discussing your child’s “ouch moments.” They may not want to share these openly, so try starting a conversation with, “Tell me about someone who did something nice today.” Once they do, follow with, “Tell me about someone who did something not-so-nice today” and listen closely for signs of bullying.
- When your child talks about a new friend ask, “Tell me one way that you and your new friend are similar?” Follow with, “Tell me one way you and your new friend are different?” From there you can ask a question about how being different from one another might impact their friendship.
- Be careful not to say things like “Big kids don’t cry” or “You need to just forget about it.” Statements like these invalidate your child’s experience and teach them that expressing feelings is bad.
- If you notice your child is hurting others, take a step back. Instead of immediately punishing them, ask your child why she or he has engaged in this behavior. Your child may not even realize that what they did was hurtful and may have learned the behavior somewhere else in their life.
Bullying can be a challenging topic for both children and adults to navigate, but with the right tools and insight, it is something that can be managed and addressed effectively.Are you concerned about bullying? Connect with us on our contact page.