As a parent, you naturally want to protect your children as much as possible. You invest in their friendships, their extracurricular activities, and their academics.
However, as they live and learn in society, there are chances that they could encounter hurtful actions or language. Bullying is the term for any type of behavior that’s meant to harm, intimidate, or coerce someone who is perceived as more vulnerable.
Before you can stop bullying at its source, you need to know the red flags to look out for. Today, we’re sharing five warning signs that your child could be experiencing it and where to turn for support.
1. A Hesitancy to Go to School
Your child was once precocious and eager to learn. They couldn’t wait to go to school in the morning, and they’d give you a full, fun debrief every afternoon. Now, it seems like you have to beg them to get out of the car or onto the bus.
While there are many different environments in which bullying can occur (including online — known as cyberbullying), school is a notorious hotspot for these encounters. This is because students of all ages and abilities are grouped together, which can give rise to hot tempers and unkind behaviors.
If your child is suddenly hesitant to leave in the morning, this could be a sign that they’re getting bullied in or around the classroom. The same applies if you’re getting regular calls from their teacher or school nurse requesting an early pickup due to upset stomachs, headaches, or other illnesses. If you have an older child and you suspect they’re getting bullied at school, check in with their teachers to make sure they made it to class that day, as it’s common for teens and adolescents to skip school altogether if schools are a painful place to be.
While bullying can occur at any time, it’s especially concerning if Mondays tend to be your child’s most reluctant days. If school is where the activity is occurring, then they may feel safer at home over the weekend and dread returning when the week begins.
2. Quiet and Withdrawn Behavior
Has your energetic, happy-go-lucky child started to seem more withdrawn and somber lately? For instance, they might go straight to their room after they get home from school or refuse to engage in family conversations over dinner.
Not only could this point to a potential bullying issue at school, but it could also mean they’re experiencing online bullying. If they’re on their device alone, ask to see what they’re doing and who they are communicating with. From social media to gaming chat rooms, there are many spaces where malicious interactions could occur.
Talk to your child openly about the changes you’ve noticed in their behavior. You can begin by saying something such as, “You’ve seemed kind of down lately. Can you tell me more about it?” By framing the dialogue with open-ended questions, you can encourage your child to open up and share how they’re feeling.
3. Changes in Friendships
Does your child seem to be hanging out with a new group of friends instead of the ones they’ve always had? While there’s nothing wrong with embracing new relationships and spending time with many different people, it can be concerning if they suddenly cut ties with their best friends since childhood.
This occurs frequently with adolescents and teens, especially as middle and high school dynamics take hold. While they might be hesitant to open up to you about what’s going on, try to engage with a few of the other parents who may be affected by the conflict. This way, you can learn more about what happened, and you’ll be privy to any invites or activities that your child might be left out of.
If you suspect bullying could be the issue, monitor their internet use too. You may find that your child suddenly becomes immersed in their device or wants nothing to do with it. Often, in-school bullying continues on social media platforms and messenger sites, which can be especially frustrating for the child involved.
4. Difficulty Sleeping
One of the key signs of bullying is frequent disturbances to your child’s sleep. When they go to bed with so much on their mind, it can be difficult to fall asleep, much less stay that way.
If you’ve noticed your child is having a hard time sleeping through the night, talk to them about it. The same goes if they’re waking frequently from nightmares or have started coming into your bedroom when this wasn’t a habit before. They could be going to bed with a lot on their mind, which can affect their rest.
As your little ones grow, they need sleep for proper mental, physical, and emotional development. If bullying is keeping them up at night, it’s important to recognize and address those signs.
5. Intense Emotions and Reactions
It’s no secret that children can experience intense emotions at any time. They’re growing and developing and their hormones are changing too. However, pay attention if your child reacts dramatically and emotionally around topics of school, friendships, or social media.
If they’re experiencing frequent outbursts for seemingly no reason, this could be a cause for concern. Their emotions could be high around these places or events, which is heightening their anxiety levels. You may also notice that they’re less willing to participate in family events or seem irritated when they do join in.
Bullying Can Lead to Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms
Bullying of any level can be the reason children turn to drugs or alcohol.
If you suspect that your child could be experiencing this problem, there are resources that can help. At Cenikor, we provide a range of programs designed to help adolescents and their families work through tough issues that could affect their behavior and long-term health. All of our service and treatment options are supported by licensed clinical staff who can help you understand, address, and stop bullying for good.
You don’t have to fight this battle alone, and your child certainly doesn’t either.