It is unimaginable to think that your child could be bullied, and in many cases parents think their child won’t be a victim of bullying, in the belief that their child is a solid individual with a strong personality. However, no one is exempt from being bullied, as unfortunately even the strongest willed child can be bullied, which can leave them fraught and anxious. It is distressing to think that a staggering amount of children are bullied, so it is imperative to be aware of the signs to determine if your child is a victim of bullying, so that you can be a support to your child and help them out of the situation.
Signs of bullying:
If your child displays any of the following behaviors then bullying may be responsible. If there is any change in your child’s demeanor keep a close eye on them to ensure that everything is okay, as a change in behavior is the biggest indicator that there is an underlying problem. The following are some of the most common key signs to be aware of.
• Lack of interest in school
Is your child showing less interest in school, do they make a fuss about going, or try to get out of going to school, are they reluctant to talk about their day and school activities. Have they started taking a different longer route home from school? If your child has an issue and has become fearful with school then bullying is usually the main culprit.
• School work failing
Has your child’s school work started to decline, if you are noticing that they are not doing as well academically, then this could be due to bullying, they are probably finding it hard to focus on their studies, as they may be preoccupied with their troubles.
• Change in diet
Stress from bullying can lead to an increase or decrease in appetite, as this is used as a coping mechanism. If your child’s diet has suddenly and unusually changed without reason then this is a concern that needs to be investigated.
• Change in sleep patterns
Frequent nightmares and bad dreams can be the result of anxiety that is caused from bullying. A change in usual sleeping patterns is also an indicator that there is an underlying problem. Stress can cause a child to be unable to sleep, or they may be sleeping more than usual.
• Damaged or lost property
Children are notoriously careless and absent minded with their school equipment, and often lose their possessions; however, if this becomes a frequent occurrence then there is a problem. If they seem to be losing a lot of their belongings, including money, then it has more than likely been taken from them. Torn or damaged clothes are not uncommon as children engage in physical games and activities; however, if this is a regular occurrence then they could be a victim of physical bullying.
• Cuts and bruises
It is natural for children to have cuts and bruises, especially younger children who tend to fall over and be accident prone. However, if your child appears to have a lot of unexplained, suspicious cuts and bruises then this is a cause for worry. If your child seems to be blasé and cannot remember how they came to sustain injuries then immediate action should be taken, however, remain calm and think about your plan of action first.
• Frequent illness
Stress can leave you feeling unwell, and cause actual physical illness. If your child seems to be missing a lot of school due to illness then there is an underlying problem that is causing your child to become frequently unwell. If this becomes a frequent occurrence then consult your doctor to get to the root of the problem.
• Change in mood
A child that has become quieter and withdrawn is probably fearful, and has probably lost some self-esteem and confidence. They may become moody and difficult, and act irrationally. They may display unusual behavior, and become scared and fearful in certain situations without reason. Any change in mood or behavior is a concern to be aware of. Treat your child with care and be diplomatic to find out what has caused the change, your child isn’t likely to open up.
• Help, I suspect my child is being bullied
Parents need to be vigilant to be able to recognize bullying, so that they can intervene to put a stop to it. If you are concerned that your child is exhibiting any of the signs above, then this could be a result of bullying. Children are fearful to confide in others, as they are worried that it will make matters worse, and they feel embarrassed to admit to being bullied.
It doesn’t matter how small the bullying may seem to you, if it is affecting your child then it needs to be addressed, before it gets out of hand. Bullying needs to be taken seriously, even if you think your child is equipped to deal with being bullied, the truth is they will need your support and you will need to help them find the confidence and strength to deal with the situation.
Here is a course of action and some strategies to employ to deal with bullying:
As infuriating as the situation may be, you need to be a good role model and act rationally, you will need to treat the situation with care, and be sensitive to your child’s feelings. Remain calm, don’t show your emotions of anger and sadness, as this won’t help your child. You need to be strong, confident and assuring.
LISTEN, always be prepared to listen to your child, as they may give small clues to how they are feeling. Always make your child feel important, and give them your time. Never dismiss their feelings. Once your child is ready to talk to you, listen attentively and be patient, as it won’t be easy. Don’t put pressure on your child to make them talk, as this will make them feel uneasy.
Avoid directly asking your child if they are being bullied, as this will make them feel ashamed and they are likely to become nervous and withdrawn. Show an interest in your child, ask indirect questions, about their day, who they sat with at school, and what they enjoyed about their day. If they are reluctant to talk to you, they are more than likely hiding something.
Enlist a trusted member of the family or friend that your child is close with, and ask them to spend some one-on-one time with your child to see if they can get them to open up.
Once your child has confided in you, you can assess the situation and discuss a plan of action. Reassure and comfort your child. Explain that this is not their fault, and they are not to blame. Inform your child that you are going to help them through this, be supportive and show courage.
Speak to the school administrators as there will be a bullying policy set in place. Arrange an appointment with your child’s teacher or principal to discuss your concerns.
If your child has trouble with sleeping and eating, or is frequently unwell due to stress consult your doctor.
There are many organizations that provide free help and support for both you and your child which can be found on-line.
It is vital to take bullying seriously, as even if it seems minor it can manifest, and if it is not stopped it can cause lasting damage to a child. Take action immediately, be supportive to your child, and remain calm. Once the bullying has been resolved, you will need to instill confidence back into your child and help them to overcome the trauma. Find new activities that they can take up to focus their energy on. You can help your child out of this situation. Put an end to the bullying.