Few things make going to school more challenging than when a bully is in the classroom. Whether the bully is physically aggressive or relies upon verbal bullying tactics, this inappropriate behavior can cause significant amounts of problems for other students.
So, if your child is being bullied, what should you do?
Definition of Bullying
First, it’s important to understand how broad the scope of bullying can really be. An article in Parents.com defines it as “the act of willfully causing harm to others through verbal harassment (teasing and name-calling), physical assault (hitting, kicking, and biting), or social exclusion (intentionally rejecting a child from a group).”
And, although bullying used to start around middle school, children sometimes mimic aggressive behavior seen on television or in video games as early as preschool now. In fact, a study from the Journal of School Health found that, in elementary school, 19 percent of children in the United States are being bullied, with more than 160,000 kids missing school because of their fear of classroom bullies.
Signs of Bullying
Your child may not tell you that he or she is being bullied, perhaps because of embarrassment – or maybe the bully warned of additional consequences if your child tells you about what’s going on.
So, you may need to do a bit of detective work, with StopBullying.gov sharing several signs to watch out for, including:
- Injuries that can’t be easily explained
- Frequent complaints from your child about headaches, stomach aches or other illnesses
- Clothing that is lost or damaged
- Missing or damaged belongings, ranging from backpacks to books, cell phones to jewelry and more
- Problems sleeping and/or frequent nightmares
- Changes in eating habits; if your child, for example, comes home from school feeling very hungry, a bully may be taking his or her lunch (or taking away lunch money)
- Declining grades and/or a wish to not go to school
- Avoidance of social situations
- Feelings of helplessness
At its most extreme, bullying can cause your child to consider running away from home, or hurting himself or herself—or even suicide. If you have any suspicions that this is the case, get help immediately. Also note that, what to one child may seem like relatively minor bullying may feel overwhelming to another, so don’t try to judge whether your child is over-reacting in these types of situations. Get help.
How to Stop Bullying
If you suspect bullying, talk to your child’s teacher. Be specific about what happened and who was involved. Also teach your child how to walk away from bullying and how to seek appropriate help from a teacher or other responsible adult—but don’t assume this means your child will be able to stop bullying behaviors without your intervention.
The article in Parents.com discusses whether it makes sense to contact the parents of the bully. Sometimes this helps, especially if the parents are open to cooperating with you. If you feel they will be, contact them and share the situation in a non-confrontational way and ask for their suggestions. The article says this is an appropriate response “only for persistent acts of intimidation.”
KidsHealth.org shares the importance of reassuring your child that being bullied is not his or her fault. Praise your child for feeling comfortable enough to discuss what’s going on and let him or her know you’ll figure out a solution together.
Finally, once the problem is solved, recognize that your child may need help restoring confidence and self-esteem. So, encourage him or her to spend time with friends, participate in enjoyable activities and otherwise build positive, healthy relationships.