We’ve all experienced it at one time or another, whether we were a victim, a bystander or a perpetrator. Sometimes it seems as though bullying and being bullied are just a way of life for students. But bullying often has many serious, negative consequences. A child who is being bullied may be physically or emotionally hurt and it could be affecting their social and academic lives as well. It’s important to pay attention and recognize the signs that your child is being bullied so you can take appropriate action.
What is bullying? The definition of bullying encompasses any kind of physical or verbal harassment or abuse. This can include anything from hitting, punching and pushing to name-calling and teasing or exclusion from social groups or activities. Bullying can also take place online – through popular social media sites or email – or even through text messaging.
You may think you know your child well enough to assume that if they were being bullied at school, they would simply tell you. However, it’s usually not that easy for kids. Your child may be ashamed, scared of repercussion from the bully, scared of being called weak for telling an adult, etc. Instead, you may want to keep your eyes open for signs that your child may be the victim of bullying.
Signs may include any of the following:
- Unexplained injuries
- Lost or destroyed items, including clothing, books or electronics
- Frequently feeling sick or faking illness
- Reluctance to go to school
- Decline in grades or loss of interest in school
- Low self esteem
- Self-destructive behaviors, possibly even harming themselves
Believing your child may be the victim of bullying can be scary. If you suspect your child is being bullied there are a few steps you should take immediately.
- First, focus on your child foremost. While keeping your emotions in check – it’s best for everyone to stay as calm and rational as possible – ask your child to explain the situation to you. And really listen. Do not tell your child to ignore the bullying and do not try to blame your child or ask what they did to cause this.
- Empathize with your child. Listen to what they are saying and let them know you care. Let them know bullying is wrong and retaliation can be just as bad. Talk to your child about possible ways to resolve the situation. Ask them what they think can be done to fix the situation and let them know what you are going to do to try and fix it as well.
- Make sure your child knows that bullying is serious. Let your child know that bullying can be dangerous and it is always ok to report a bully to an adult. Talk to your child about ways in which they can enlist the help of adults. Role play with your child to teach them how to ask for help or to simply let an adult know they are feeling threatened by a bully.
- Provide a safe environment. Make sure your child always knows your home is a loving and safe environment. Foster communication with your child. Teach by example and show your child nonviolent ways to resolve conflicts.
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