What Parents Should Know About Childhood Bullying

young girl being bullied by peers

In recent years, a lot more attention has been paid to bullying especially to youths and the impact it can have on them. A child being bullied can take a tremendous toll on a person’s mental, physical, and emotional well-being. Teens and children are prime targets for bullying because they’re especially sensitive to criticism and the opinions of others. After all, growing up means for many youths shaping themselves according to societal expectations which includes the opinions of their peers. Kids who bully, however, are likely looking for an outlet for aggression or a way to cope with problems in their own personal lives.

Unfortunately, not every child being bullied asks for help. The reasons for this can stem from fear of peer rejection, humiliation, feelings of helplessness, or fear of retaliation by the bully. But left unaddressed, bullying can be extremely detrimental to victims and studies show a strong link between bullying and suicide in young people. Statistics show that at least half of the total number of suicides committed by young people are the result of bullying and that bullying victims are 2 to 9 times more likely to consider suicide than non-suicide victims.

You Child Being Bullied: How To Know

Your child might not tell you if they’re being bullied but there may be certain signs. Some are more obvious than others. If your child has unexplainable injuries or  has frequently missing personal items, it may be a sign that your child is being bullied. Bullies use theft and physical abuse as tactics of intimidation. While it’s true that kids can sometimes be forgetful or not very careful, frequently missing or damaged items and physical injuries like black eyes are seldom the result of the individual. Some injuries, however, can be self-inflicted. Self-harm is a major indicator of something wrong which can stem from bullying or other sources of distress.

Other indicators are less obvious and require more observance. Noticeable changes in appetite like suddenly losing interest in eating or eating considerably more can be signs of peer influence. Eating is one of our most obvious coping mechanisms so extreme changes in eating patterns can indicate emotional distress. For a child who is eating noticeably less or not at all, it could be a sign of peer influence and bodily dissatisfaction. For the child who is suddenly eating more it could be a sign of growth or it could be because they’re not eating at school. Perhaps it’s  because they don’t feel comfortable or because their lunch or lunch money is being taken.

Other health-related indicators of bullying include loss of sleep or an inability to sleep, frequently claiming to be sick and/or avoiding class, a sudden decline in grades, or a tendency to avoid social activity and withdraw themselves from personal relationships.

What Parents Can Do About Bullying

It’s always a good idea to keep an open line of communication with your child and speak with them openly and honestly.  While kids may not always tell their parents if they’re being bullied, the opportunity to talk about their school and personal lives should be there should they wish to use it. Initiating these conversations yourself is not necessarily a bad idea, but it’s important to allow your child to initiate their own conversations and to feel safe to do so.

But what if you know or are certain your child is being bullied? Many kids won’t tell their parents if they’re being bullied and the reasons for that are many and varied and can range from a general feeling of helplessness to being afraid of retaliation from their bullies. Depending on the situation, it’s important to teach your child to be assertive and to ask whoever is bullying them to stop. If that doesn’t work or isn’t safe, your child should try to avoid their bully. Your child should also be able to seek help from the proper authority figure or figures in the environment they’re being bullied. If they’re at school they should seek help from the teachers or principal. However, if this doesn’t work, you as a parent might need to get involved. This can mean setting up meetings with the teachers or principal, or taking your child to school to ensure their safety upon arrival.

The goal is to do whatever is possible for you and your child to ensure that they can live and learn in safe, bully-free environments. So make sure to talk to your child to find out what’s going on and how you can help. Sometimes counseling and therapy can be good options for victims of bullying to help them overcome the mental and emotional abuse they suffered from their experiences. Overall, make sure your child knows that you are there for them, to love and support them, and to offer the help they need even if they are too afraid to ask. Work with them and together you and your child can overcome bullying and help others, too.