Bullying is a serious problem. Bullying can take on many forms, but generally it always involves an imbalance of power between two people. With children, bullying can be not only physical but also verbal or emotional bullying, and it can come in the form of name calling, exclusion and/or intimidation. It can even occur over a computer or cell phone (known as cyberbullying). Each type is serious and can cause significant problems for your child. Most schools have instituted strict “No Bullying” programs, but, unfortunately, it still occurs far too often and can go unnoticed until it reaches a severe level. Kids who are bullied often feel helpless and may not seek help from an adult, which can lead to more problems. Parents need to stay on top of things in order to ensure their child is not being bullied, and be prepared to intervene if necessary. Here are five warning signs that may indicate that your child is being bullied at school:
- Your child’s possessions are damaged and they cannot provide you with a logical explanation. You may see ripped homework papers, damaged clothing, or notice things missing.
- You may notice that your child has fewer friends than you would expect, or begins to draw away from children they used to spend time with regularly. They may mention that a certain child is “mean” or give you another indication that there are new social problems for them.
- Your child may express a desire to stay home from school, feigning illness or using other avoidant behaviors. He or she may stop participating in school activities and clubs that they previously enjoyed. He or she may ask you to drive them to school, as opposed to taking the school bus. He or she may complain of headaches or trouble sleeping or appear anxious. Appetite changes are common.
- Your child has experienced a recent, unexplainable drop in his or her grades, or has lost his or her enthusiasm or interest in school recently. If talking with his or her teacher does not reveal a clear reason for the change in achievement (e.g., learning problems, illness, problems at home or other reason) then you should further investigate the possibility that bullying is occurring. Ask the teacher if they have noticed any bullying, and ask them to watch closely and report back to you.
- Your child may be more emotional than usual, either evidenced by outbursts at home, withdrawn behaviors, acting out toward siblings, belligerence about participating in family activities or completing chores.
These are only a few of the common warning signs that your child may be bullied at school. It is important to note that these behaviors may not just be related to bullying. If your child is not being bullied, yet is demonstrating these signs, they could be indicators of other serious problems and parents should not ignore these symptoms. Keep the lines of communication open with your children, and be sure to have regular contact with their teachers and other caregivers to help prevent bullying.