October is National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month

What Are the Warning Signs of Bullying?

How to Know if Your Child Is Being Bullied

Most bullied children will not tell their parents or teachers that they’re being bullied. This is especially true for boys and older children.

Why Kids Won’t Tell Adults They’re Being Bullied

What are the signs of bullying? Don’t expect your child telling you they’re being bullied will be one of them.

If you yourself were bullied as a child, the reasons children won’t tell adults may still resonate for you:

  1. They’re ashamed and embarrassed. This is especially the case for boys who society teaches to ‘be a man’, ‘be strong’, ‘don’t go crying to mom’, etc.
  2. They’re afraid of retaliation from the bully if they tell an adult. The powerlessness bullied children fear and the desire to make the tormenting stop makes this an especially fearsome possibility. The only thing worse than being bullied would be being bullied even more for being a ‘tattletale’.
  3. They don’t think adults can help, or they fear that adults won’t take the problem seriously. Adults are busy and a child’s problems are many. When a child tells their parents that a peer called them a name in class, it can seem like a small issue. The months or years of taunting the child has endured before that incident may go unmentioned by the child and so parents may not understand the gravity of the situation. Also, many adults brush off taunting and bullying as something that all kids go through and that the child should simply avoid the bully or fight back.

Even if a child won’t tell you they’re being bullied, there are many clues you can pick up on if you look closely and pay attention to your child’s behavior.

The Warning Signs that Your Child is Being Bullied

Bullying warning signs are many and the list below, while a good start, is not exhaustive. The best thing you can do is be observant, notice changes in your child and don’t dismiss them as simply being a phase.

Here are the warning signs of bullying:

  1. Refuses to go school or suddenly shows a lack of interest in school. If your child is feigning being sick or simply refuses to go, this is a clear sign that something isn’t right at school.
  2. Suffers a drop in grades. If your child is so afraid of the bullies that they can’t think of anything except how to avoid them at lunch, chances are your child won’t be able to pay attention well in class.
  3. Takes the ‘long way’ to school. Kids aren’t known for opting for the scenic route (unless of course taking the scenic route avoids the bullies.)
  4. Withdraws from family, extracurricular activities and spends all their time in their bedroom with the door locked. The shame and humiliation that comes from being constantly bullied causes children to want to escape further pain the only way they can – by hiding in a safe place.
  5. Is often hungry after school and reports they weren’t hungry at lunch or didn’t have time to buy anything. Lunchrooms are often a battleground for bullies and their prey. Avoiding the lunchrooms is a great way to avoid the bullies although leaves little opportunity to eat.
  6. Stops talking about, or refuses to talk about, their day. Again, children are ashamed and humiliated to be bullied and they may fear that telling adults about the humiliating things that were done to them will cause the adults to lose respect for them.
  7. Does something out of character. Your child has never skipped school before but all of a sudden starts skipping classes. There’s a reason for this. And it may be to avoid the classroom bully.
  8. ‘Loses’ clothing, has torn clothing or has bruises and the explanations aren’t consistent with the injuries.  Saying you forgot your jacket in the change room sounds betters than saying a bully stole it from you. Saying your bruised nose is from walking into your locker sounds better than saying you were punched in the face.
  9. Is constantly suffering from stomachaches, headaches panic attacks, nightmares, etc. Stress causes your body to release cortisol – the stress hormone. Cortisol prepares your body for either flight or fight by shutting down unnecessary systems, ramping up the release of adrenaline, evacuating the bowels, etc. When the body is under stress for too long though, such as when a child is being bullied every day, the body begins to break down, immune system functioning goes down, digestion suffers and a whole host of physical problems can arise. Psychological disorders such as panic attacks, depression, anxiety and others may also appear.

The warning signs of bullying sound terrible enough. They’re far worse for the child going through them. When they appear, take action, talk to your school and don’t rest until your child, and your gut, tells you the problem is resolve.  

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