How to Help Your Child Deal with Bullies

As parents, we all want our child’s life and learning to be full of positive experiences. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case – such as when a child is bullied. It’s important to understand what bullying is and know the signs your child is being bullied.

Key takeaways:
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    Bullying is an aggressive behavior that repeatedly harms or distresses a child.
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    It is important for parents to watch for the signs of bullying such as: stomach aches, changes in eating habits, difficulty sleeping, and strange injuries.
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    A child may hide they are being bullied out of fear, shame, embarrassment, or because they don’t realize they are being bullied.
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    Science shows us that bullying affects a child's school work and health. Kids may avoid and miss school, do poorly in schoolwork or drop out of school. When a child is bullied physical and mental health may be affected. A child may suffer from injuries, headaches, or chronic pain. Bullied kids may also deal with loneliness, anxiety, or depression.
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    You can help your child by teaching them about bullying and that they should tell a trusted adult if they are bullied. Parents should watch for the signs of bullying in their child. It is also important to monitor a child’s social media for bullying. Parents can help their child deal with bullies by reporting bullying to school authorities and to police, if needed.

We should also realize that having an argument, pushing someone, or being rude once is not bullying. True bullying can have lasting negative effects on your child’s health and school life. Let’s look further into bullying and how you can help your child deal with bullies.

What is bullying?

According to the American Psychological Association, bullying is “an aggressive behavior that is intended to cause distress or harm, involves an imbalance of power or strength between the aggressor and the victim, and occurs repeatedly over time.”

Bullying can be physical or verbal and may happen in person or online. The aggressive behavior can come from one person or a group of people. Bullying can lead to physical, psychological, social, or educational harm.

Some types of bullying are:

  • Physical – hitting, kicking, or tripping
  • Verbal – teasing or name-calling
  • Social – leaving a child out or spreading rumors
  • Educational – damage to schoolwork, books, or tablets, or interfering with attendance

Signs your child is being bullied

For parents and teachers it is important to know the signs a child or student is being bullied. There may be physical signs such as:

  • Headaches
  • Stomach aches
  • Increased tiredness
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Nightmares
  • New/strange injuries

There may be social and emotional signs such as:

  • Depression/thoughts of suicide
  • Loneliness
  • Anxiety
  • Poor self-esteem
  • Running away or self-harm
  • Changes in friends or wanting to avoid social activities
  • Missing or disliking school

Why would a child hide that he is being bullied?

It is important to realize that students may try to hide that they are being bullied.

If your child does not see adults helping victims, they may feel hopeless.

Other children may hide they are being bullied because they fear if they tell, the bullying might get worse.

Children may not realize that subtle acts like leaving out a child from the group or spreading rumors is also bullying.

Another reason students might hide being bullied is that they feel ashamed. For example, if they are being bullied for being overweight, they may not tell a parent because they don’t want to talk about their weight.

Science behind negative effects of bullying

Science shows us there is a connection between bullied kids and achievement in school, physical health, and mental health. Bullied students are more likely to avoid school, do poorly in math and reading, and drop out of school. Sadly, there is also scientific proof that kids who are bullied may have lower self-esteem and higher levels of anxiety, depression, and loneliness. Bullied kids may be more likely to attempt suicide, either in their youth or as adults. These children may also suffer from physical health complaints such as injuries, stomach issues, headaches, palpitations, and chronic pain.

Ways to help your child

Parents can help their child by teaching them about bullies' behavior. Teach your child that it is unacceptable and that they should always tell a trusted adult if they are bullied. Teach your child how to deal with bullying by practicing how they would handle the situation, either by being assertive or using strategies like ignoring.

Parents should also watch for signs their child is being victimized.

It can also be helpful to monitor your child’s social media accounts and text messages for signs of cyberbullying. Limit access to devices and report bullying to the school. If you have worked your way up the chain of command, and authorities are unable to stop the bully, consider removing your child from the situation for their safety.

Always document threatening messages and report them to the police.

Aggressive behavior that repeatedly harms or distresses is called bullying. We know that this can cause health and academic problems. You can help your child by teaching him or her about bullying. Remember that they may try to hide that they're being bullied, so watch carefully for the signs. Help your child if they are being bullied by taking it seriously, remaining calm, and supporting them. School social workers, counselors, and psychologists are excellent resources you can use.