Finding out your child is being bullied is completely heart-breaking for parents. It’s hard to understand how it could happen and even more confusing to understand what to do next to support your child. So often, the mama-bear comes out, and we have the urge to find the bully and confront the bully head-on, even though the logical adult in us knows that’s not the right thing to do. Here are signs your child is being bullied and what to do next.
Firstly, parents should remember that disagreements are a part of life, and we don’t want to jump to conclusions over every peer conflict. It’s healthy and typical for kids to deal with peer conflict, and they must learn to manage the situations. Here are a few essential differences that parents should be aware of between bullying and peer conflict:
- Peer conflict is a MUTUAL disagreement between two kids
- It typically resolves itself quickly
- This conflict doesn’t include a power struggle
- Kids will mention this type of conflict to parents
- There are no threats or violence
So, what if this conflict has gone too far? Or is it a one-sided power struggle? Or perhaps you suspect something is up, but your child is hesitant to talk about it. That’s your red flag. Of course, we want to do everything in our power to make our children happy and safe, but it’s hard to know where to begin. So, here are some signs your child may be being bullied and the following steps to take if it happens.
Emotional Signs your child may be bullied:
- Your child doesn’t want to go to school, faking illness, or having a tummy ache.
- They withdraw from peers and family.
- You observe changes in their behavior, and they may become angry.
- A drop in their grades at school, loss of interest.
- Either lose their appetite or overeat.
- Becoming anxious or nervous.
- Lack of sleep or sudden nightmares.
- Harming themselves, or self-deprecation (saying they’re stupid, etc.)
- Bruises, cuts
- Sudden “lost” personal items (phone, ear buds etc.)
- Damaged items (clothing, bag, etc.)
Often our kids don’t want to tell parents about bullying. They feel it’s their fault or that it will become worse or make them a snitch. They have feelings of embarrassment and shame. Kids worry that parents will react with anger, be disappointed in them, or become reactive and escalate the problem.
You’ve seen the signs of bullying, but now what?
It’s hard as a parent to know what steps to take next. Again, the mama-bear comes out, and we want revenge; however, logically, we know this isn’t the right thing to do. During this time, your child is vulnerable, and you mustn’t lose their trust. So always approach the situation calmly and logically. It’s important to stay calm, don’t get angry. If they see you react in a big way, they’ll pull back and won’t work with you or communicate.
The two most important things to remember is to let them know it’s not their fault. Secondly, make it clear that you’re there to support them through this. Children often don’t want you involved; they worry it will worsen. So, it would be best if you made it clear that you’ll work together to ensure the situation changes.
Here are some tips on the next steps:
- Gently approach the subject or ask questions when they hint at it.
- Praise your child for speaking up.
- Open and positive communication during this time is key. Working together allows your child to trust you, making them feel comfortable opening up.
- Explain that it is not their fault and that you’re proud of them.
- Reassure them that you will work together to change the situation and find a solution.
- Work hard over the following weeks to build up their confidence.
- Find and encourage friendships that are positive for them.
- Tell the teacher, principal, counselor, or trustee.
- Offer counseling for your child.
- Suggest the buddy system, a friend who will be supportive and your child can count on to walk home with, eat lunch with, etc.
Remember that this is a time to start rebuilding your child’s confidence. It’s an opportunity to strengthen the relationship and the trust you have with your child. Most importantly, it’s crucial that you get the help both you and your child require to get yourselves through difficult times. For crisis help please reach out to these organizations for assistance