Over the last few years in my private practice, there has been an increase in the number of my families wanting to talk about the issue of bullying. I believe increased interest in this topic corresponds with a rise in the number of bullying incidents reported in schools and communities.
Some parents know their child is having issues, while others want to know what they should be looking for if a problem develops.
Signs of bullying
Most children will not immediately tell anyone that they are being bullied. Most bullies threaten their victims and warn them not to say anything. This is why it is important for parents to know what signs to watch for.
Here are the most common signs that a child is being bullied:
- Child complains about going to school, without giving a specific reason
- Unexplained injuries
- Child feigns an illness in an attempt to stay home from school
- Sudden loss of friends or an unwillingness to engage in social situations that were previously a source of fun
- Sudden increase in headaches and stomachaches
- Difficulty sleeping or dealing with nightmares
- Lost or destroyed possessions such as clothing or electronics
- Decreased self-esteem or self-destructive behavior, teens may isolate themselves
- Younger children may seem extra clingy
What to do if your child is being bullied
- Approach your child’s teacher: If coaching your child on how to work through it on their own has not worked, it’s important for adults to get involved. In many cases, the issue can be resolved with a conversation between the teacher and the students involved.
- Next steps: If that does not resolve the situation, a meeting with the school principal may be needed,to step up consequences or to perhaps bring in additional support. This could be, the school Social Worker or Child and Youth Worker to support your child and their bully through a combination of counselling and strategy-based solutions.
- In some cases, especially when bullying is occurring online (off school time and off school premises), there is little the school can do. At this point you may have to approach the police with concerns.
While bullying is a situation no parent wants to find their children facing, it can be an opportunity to have some important conversations with your child. It’s also a chance to teach children about compassion towards people who may be struggling themselves, while at the same time teaching them to be empowered and to not accept dangerous, aggressive and unkind behavior.
Keeping the lines of communication is key in helping your child feel they can turn to you for support. More information about bulling behavior and prevention is available at PREVNet, a network of leading researchers and organizations working to support Canadian families to stop bullying in Canada.