Whether it starts with a sibling at home or another child at school, teasing is, unfortunately, something nearly every adolescent child experiences at some point. But when teasing escalates to bullying, it can often lead to long-term self-esteem issues that remain after the insults stop. While your child might not tell you that he or she is being bullied, there are certain indicators that you can look for as a parent, as well as actions you can take to help them dissolve the conflict – and build back up their self-esteem.
Signs of Bullying
There are three main types of bullying: Verbal bullying (insults or name-calling), psychological bullying (spreading rumors about a child to other children or purposefully leaving them out of group activities), or physical bullying (hitting or pushing). Here are some warning signs that your child may be being bullied:
- Abrupt Personality Changes: Your child may start to withdraw from you, other family members, or even their friends, becoming indifferent about things they once enjoyed.
- Poor Grades: Their grades may start to drop unexpectedly as a result of being distracted by an abusive classmate or peer.
- Negative Self-Esteem: Keep your ears open for negative self-talk, where your child may refer to him or herself as a “loser.”
- Unexplained Bruises: If your child has unexplained bruises on his/her arms or legs that weren’t there before the school day began, this could be a sign of physical bullying.
Building Your Child Back Up
While discovering that someone is bullying your child may leave you feeling angry and helpless, there are things you can do to help. Here are some suggestions that may help you work alongside your child and school officials to resolve the issue:
- Decide how to resolve the problem together. Try role-playing scenarios similar to the ones your child described going through, and suggest effective responses to each. Tell your child to avoid physical altercations at all costs, and advise them to tell a teacher or school professional immediately if the fight ever turns physical.
- Hear your child out. After being rejected by his or her classmates, your child will likely have their guard up. Break down communication barriers by opening the floor for your son or daughter to talk about what happened, only when he or she is ready. When your child does come to you, just listen.
- Reassure your son or daughter that he or she is not alone. Tell your child a story about a time when you or someone you know was bullied by a peer. Let your child know that you understand how they feel and that you are there to support him or her in finding a solution.
- Get a third-party involved. If the bullying is occurring at the same time of day or during a particular class, talk to the teacher of that class to make him or her aware of the problem. Ask the teacher if he or she has ever observed this taking place in the past – and if he or she can keep an eye out for it in the future. Arrange a follow-up call with that teacher and, if the bullying persists, discuss the options, whether it’s moving your child into a different class or speaking with the bully’s parent with a school official present. The third-party perspective will help keep the conversation productive.
As a parent, you want nothing more than for your child to feel loved and to have a sense of belonging – both at home and at school. For more information on helping your child overcome bullying, visit www.stopbullying.gov.