With a recent Ditch The Label study finding that a fifth of young people were bullied in the last year, it’s never been more important for parents to be able to recognise if your child is suffering and start taking action sooner rather than later. In fact, 3 out of 4 that were bullied said it affected their mental health, with almost half becoming depressed as a result. Even though it’s not always easy to know if your child is being bullied, we’ve put together some tell-tale signs you can watch out for, as well as some ways parents can help their kids come out the other side.
What Is Bullying?
Bullying is the intentional infliction of physical, verbal or psychological harm. It can range several forms including:
- Physical (hitting, punching, beating)
- Verbal (teasing, name calling, threats)
- Emotional (intimidation using gestures, social exclusion, threats)
- Racist Bullying
- Cyberbullying (online harassment, hate messages, threats, impersonation)
Usually these types of bullying will be constant, upsetting, hurtful and can have a huge impact on a child’s confidence.
Signs Your Child Might Be Getting Bullied
We know most parents know their children better than anyone else, so if you do start noticing abnormal behaviour, make sure you don’t ignore it. Even though kids often go through phases and can be secretive, if you start seeing a few of the following changes it might be time to investigate a little further.
- Low self-esteem
- Unexplained cuts, bruises, and scratches
- Reluctance to attend school
- Being self-loathing and negative
- Heightened anxiety, panic attacks, fearfulness
- Has few, if any, friends and starts isolating themselves from family and peers
- Constant mood swings, irritability or general unhappiness
- Disrupted sleep patterns and regular bad dreams
- Appears sad, moody, teary, or depressed when they come home
- Changing their usual route to school
- Has lost interest in school work or starts getting bad grades at school
- Loss of appetite
- Unexplained repeated illnesses like headaches and stomach aches
How You Can Help
Talk To Your Child
If you are concerned your child might be getting bullied at school, you need to start by gently trying to talk to them about it. Listen carefully as they tell you what’s been going on and how they’re feeling. If you can, try to see what kind of bullying has been happening, when it started and who the ringleaders are - having all this information may be helpful if you need to talk to the school later on. It’s also important to remind your child they do not deserve to be treated badly and that you’re always there for them regardless. Not only do victims of bullying feel ashamed and scared to tell anyone what’s been happening, it can also be a very lonely and isolating time for them.
Come Up With Solutions Together
When it comes to dealing with bullying, we suggest trying to come up with solutions together. We recommend discussing coping strategies which can help them regain confidence and will help them start to stand up for themselves. This can be anything from using humour or assertively saying ‘no’ if the bully starts trying to take money or possessions. Another idea is practicing role-play scenarios with your child so they learn how to respond to the bullying.
Talk To The School
If you are feeling worried about the bullying, it’s important that you talk to your child’s school. Every school should have an anti-bullying policy in place, so bringing it to the teacher’s attention is crucial so they can start taking the appropriate steps. Talk through solutions with your child’s teachers and make sure your child knows to report any bullying straight away to school staff so immediate action can be taken.
Once you’ve had a chat about the bullying, it’s important to keep lines of communication open with your child. Make sure you’re checking in regularly to see how they’re feeling and what’s been going on in their life. This also gives them a chance to tell you if the bullying is getting better or worse. We also advise chatting regularly with their teachers, as they will be able to keep an eye on how things are going and can feedback any concerns they may see in regards to behaviour or performance.
Get Involved In New Activities
Finally, if your child is being bullied in school, it’s a wonderful idea to encourage them to get involved in activities outside of school that can help build up their confidence levels. Not only will it help them build up their self-esteem but it will also help them form new friendships.
If your child is being bullied, click here for more help, advice, support and other services.