As a parent, it doesn’t take much to detect when something’s different about your child. While not all issues are apparent, if your gut is telling you that something’s wrong, then it’s time to inquire.
The health issues that children experience when involved in bullying – as the bully, bullied or bystanders – are significant. Your child may experience headaches, stomachaches, and sleep problems if bullying is in her life. Many parents are the most anxious, however, when they are concerned their child is the target of bullying behavior.
If you suspect that your child is being bullied, there are certainly reasons to be concerned. Academically, bullying can take a toll on your child. Research has shown that children who are excluded from their peers are at a greater risk of academic difficulties over time (Buhs). Children who are targeted at school can also become withdrawn from school or other activities they used to love, and show slight to significant declines in grades.
In addition to the physical symptoms listed above, mental health issues may also present themselves. Watch your child for signs of anxiety, depression or other mood disorders. These can be common among children who are bullied (Fekkes). Gradual avoidance of friends or withdrawal from social situations can also be warning signs.
Know these signs and begin the conversation with your child. Often, just talking with children helps. They aren’t always looking for us to solve the problem; it helps to be an empathetic listener, and to share your own experiences from school. Telling them to fight back or to ignore the bully are pieces of bad advice.
Bullying is a systemic problem. There could be a lot going on, from inadequate supervision at school to deeper behavioral health problems with the aggressor. It’s unlikely, and unfair, for your child to attempt to stop the bullying on his or her own. As parents it’s our responsibility to stay tuned into our children and to take active measures to help when signs indicate that bullying is taking a toll on them.
Are you concerned that your child is being bullied? What are the warning signs you’re noticing?
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