Bullying can never be underestimated.
Bullying can ravage a child’s social life, ruin their education, and even leave them with long term mental health problems.
No child or teenager ever deserves to suffer at the hands of a bully. And as soon as it comes to light, it must be stopped. Immediately.
The problem is. A lot of the time, parents don’t even know that it’s happening.
Bullied children are likely to feel helpless, or even guilty. Chances are, they won’t want or will feel able to talk about it.
Nobody wants to be a clichéd paranoid-parent. But knowing the warning signs could help us make a huge difference in our kids’ lives.
1. They don’t want to go to school
Even though a lot of them say they don’t like school, deep down children and teenagers love it. It’s where their friends are, and it’s a whole lot more exciting than sitting around at home all day.
If your kid truly doesn’t want to go to school, dismissing it as typical youthful rebellion could be an oversight.
Be understanding, sit them down and let them honestly explain why they don’t want to go. It’s always worth being sure.
2. They’re reluctant to talk about school
When our kids come home they’re normally full of beans. Just because they come home smiling, though, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t still be vigilant.
Home is a safe haven, but things could be very different at school.
Every evening, perhaps over dinner, get them talking about their school day. A reluctance to chat openly or go into details could be a sign they’re having a tough time.
3. They want to spend more time in their room
When a child or teenager spends every waking hour alone in their room, it’s a clear sign something could be wrong. When they gradually start spending more and more time alone, it can be easier to miss.
Bullying can lead to feelings of guilt and worthlessness. It’s not rare for victims to be want to be away from all scrutinising eyes, even their own family.
If we decide to talk to our kids about their solitude, it’s a good idea to do it in their rooms – a ‘safe place’ for them, where they can open up about the problems they’re facing.
4. They always cover up their arms and legs
Cuts or bruises are a clear sign of possible physical bullying, but they aren’t always easy to spot – especially if the victim doesn’t want you to see them.
If you notice your kid seems to be going out of their way to cover their arms or legs, it’s probably not the best idea to demand they show you what’s wrong.
Just talk to them, ask them if they’re okay, and keep an eye out for more red flags.
5. They regularly complain about having headaches and stomach aches
When our kids wake up complaining of a headache or stomach ache, the first instinct is to wonder if they just fancy a lie-in that day. Most of the time, it’s probably on the money.
However, if it’s a more regular occurrence, it could be a red flag.
Perhaps they are faking the symptoms, but there must be a reason they don’t want to go to school.
And, worse still, perhaps they’re not faking; maybe they’re telling the truth.
Headaches and stomach aches are both common symptoms of anxiety. The fact our kids are getting them right before re-entering the school environment might not be a coincidence.
6. They can’t sleep
Just as anxiety causes stomach aches and headaches, it also regularly leads to sleeping problems.
After a day of quietly dealing with the psychological pressures of being bullied at school, it’s not easy for a child to switch off and sleep peacefully.
After all, when they wake up, they have to go through it all over again.
Simply setting a strict bedtime and switching the lights off could make things worse. If our kids can’t sleep at night, we need to ask why, and address the problem.
7. Their grades are getting worse
When a student’s grades start to drop, far too often they’re the ones that get the blame. There’s always a reason why, and bullying is one of the most common.
It might be because the victim wants to skip class, or it might be because they find it hard to concentrate with the extra stress. Either way, bullying can destroy a child’s academic success.
As soon as parents see a drop in grades, they need to remember that it might not be down to any failure on their son or daughter’s behalf. They could need help.
8. Their friendship groups are changing
Children try on new personalities like pairs of shoes, and part of being young is discovering who you are. We know from our own childhoods that we find new friendship groups as we grow up, and leave others behind.
It isn’t always as innocent as that, though, so it’s important to subtly monitor changes in your kids’ friendship groups, without becoming too involved.
If you notice they they’re suddenly spending less time with their friends out of school, it could be a sign that they’re being targeted by bullies.
9. They’re experiencing dramatic changes in mood
Bullying can completely change our children’s lives and there’s no predicting how it might affect their mood. The only thing for sure is that it probably will in one way or another.
As parents, it’s our job to find out why changes in mood are taking place, and to be patient and understanding.
10. They’re bullying their siblings
When one sibling begins bullying another, the situation may not be as black and white as it first seems.
In fact, it’s far from rare for victims of school-bullying to turn their elsewhere, in the form of bullying.
Of course, any bullying must be nipped in the bud straight away, but it’s important to be aware that there may be more than one victim.
Bullying can be an unfortunate fact of a young person’s life, but with the right support, victims of bullying can come out of the other side as stronger, well-rounded human beings.
Parents will always be there to give that support, but we need to know how to spot the occasions when we’re needed the most.
Keeping our eyes open for difficult-to-spot red flags means that we’re always on hand to give our children the guidance they need.