Children and adolescents may be different in their ages, but there are still some characteristics to look out for when you suspect your child is being bullied. Here are a list of things to look out for if you suspect your son or daughter may be the target of a bully:
- They avoid school or other school-related events– Children and adolescents who are the target of bullying may avoid school completely, as they will see school not as a place of learning and making friends, but likely as a place of ridicule and embarrassment. Talk to your school’s principal, teachers, or other staff members to get a sense of what is going on to help the situation.
- Children and adolescents may be more prone to acting out their frustrations– When students are being bullied, they may be more likely to act out their frustrations, and this may be different for children and adolescents. For children, this may include more temper tantrums, crying, and even physical aggression. For adolescents, this may include physical aggression, crying, property damage or vandalism, and other risky behaviors. Talk to your school’s guidance counselor, or another trusted adult, to see what resources are available to help children and adolescents cope with their feelings in a more constructive manner, such as by engaging in sports and activities, or having a change of classes to avoid the bullying altogether.
- Children may experience bedwetting and nightmares because of bullying–
Young children who are the target of bullying may experience an increase in bedwetting, as this is a sign of a loss of control, and the child may have other physical symptoms that accompany the traumatic experiences they are facing. Also, children may seem to be sick more often due to wanting to avoid school, as these symptoms could be physically manifested in children.
Children who are the subject of bullying may also have more nightmares, and may have worse dreams due to the physical taunting they are experiencing. Talk to your child’s school to get to the source of the bullying, along with your child’s doctor and staff to see if they can recommend safe and natural ways to help, such as with special bedding that is used specifically for bedwetting, music, scented aromas, or other natural remedies to help your child sleep better and more calmly throughout the night.
- They may be more prone to self-injurious behaviors– Seek immediate help if your child is displaying any type of self-injuries they have made as a result of being bullied, as this may be a cry for help, and let them know that there are resources and help available to help them cope in a positive way with the frustrations they are feeling. Support organizations, such as suicide prevention hotlines, abuse hotlines, and other free resources are available to individuals who may be experiencing these behaviors due to bullying.
- Keep an eye on your child’s school work– Even if they don’t come out and verbally tell you they are indeed being bullied, keep an eye on your child’s schoolwork. Children who are being bullied will sometimes, without even realizing it, express themselves through their work. An example would be a student drawing a self-portrait of themselves with a frown on their face, or even using darker colors, or showing themselves being ostracized and left out in artwork they create. Evidence of bullying may be evident in a child’s artwork, along with a drop in their overall grades and effort. This is especially true for classes they once took an interest in, as they may be depressed. Talk to your child’s school to see if they can come up with solutions to not only improve the child’s grades and self-image, but to help get to the root of the bullying and come up with a plan of action.
- Children who are being bullied may dress inappropriately– Imagine you are teaching a class on a warm and sunny spring day, and you notice that, as your students walk into the classroom and the sun is shining outside, that another student walks in with a long, heavy shirt and pants on. Unless the student has a medical condition that requires them to dress this way in warm weather, you as the teacher should have reason to notice this, and wonder why they are dressing this way when the weather is warm outside. They could be the subject of bullying, and are trying to cover up their bruises so as not to bring attention to the matter. Take notice, and talk to the family or the school to get their input on the situation.
- Children and adolescents may avoid familiar routes– Remember that ten to fifteen minute bus ride that your child always took when coming home? Children or adolescents who are the target of bullying may avoid those same familiar routes altogether, and may look for alternative ways to get to and from where they need to be. This may include avoiding the bus, or even walking a different way to and from school in order to avoid their bullies, and stay away from harm. This may add more time to their daily commute, and children or adolescents who are facing this type of dilemma may find it more beneficial to have a trusted parent or guardian take them to school and back, for they may experience fear and anticipation at the thought of traveling along once familiar routes. Talk to the school bus operator to see what their policies are, if any, for riding the bus, and what efforts can be made to make traveling to and from school a better experience for kids.
- Their behavior changes when around certain people– If your child is being bullied at school or elsewhere, notice how their behavior may change when around the perpetrator. Do they become more anxious or quiet? If they are very young, do they hold your hand tighter? Do they smile or frown when the suspected bully enters the room? All of these are non-verbal ways of communicating to others that they are not comfortable in the bully’s presence, and may very well be telling the truth when they talk about being bullied and the person is nearby. Try and get a sense of their reaction.
- There is a written record that the school has kept of the bullying- Children and adolescents who attend school should be able to receive a quality education in a safe and comforting school environment, but unfortunately, when that is not the case, there should be a written record, notebook, or document that outlines incidents of bullying and a description of each situation. The school should be able to provide you with a record of these incidents, and discuss a plan of action based upon the incident records.
- Technology becomes a real issue– Sometimes, adolescents and teenagers who are being bullied may be facing a type of bullying called cyberbullying, where they are made to be the target of online bullying and taunting. This may take the form of using social media websites, such as Facebook or other popular sites, to post ridiculing information, content, pictures, or videos of them in order to bring shame to the person. Also, technology can play a big role in bullying due to the anonymous profiles that people sometimes make up, which makes it hard to pinpoint exactly who is doing the taunting. This type of information is very serious because it is posted online for many people to see. Also, information that is posted online about a person may be difficult to take down due to the source not being known, and the website’s own policies. Talk to someone in charge at the site to see if anything can be done, as most websites should have a policy in place regarding cyberbullying of any kind. Also, be certain to have a trusted individual save all of the information that is posted to keep as evidence should you need it. The police may also become involved in these instances.
- Children and adolescents may experience a loss of interest in activities– Students who are being bullied may face a real loss of interest in activities they once enjoyed, such as arts and crafts, theater, sports, or other activities they regularly participated in. This is because they have a lower self-esteem, and may be facing ridicule for their expertise in certain areas due to jealousy from their bully. The bully may want to put down and knock those wonderful traits and abilities they may very well be jealous of.
- The school may request a personal meeting with you to discuss the situation– One of the key qualities of having your child attend a quality school is that the school will take a proactive approach in dealing with and communicating their policy on bullying, whether that be bullying in person, on campus, online through cyberbullying, or through any other means. The school should have some type of procedure in place, and be able to effectively communicate those procedures to help make the situation better.