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How Do I Know if My Child Is Being Bullied?

October 22nd, 2014     By Kris Hallstrom, Manager of the Boys Town National Hotline

Bully, Depressed, social media, teen, tween

This post first appeared on Momaha.com.

Kids don’t always share what is going on in their life. When they do talk, you want to help find solutions. Unfortunately when it comes to bullying and its effects, there are no easy fixes. Statistics from the  2011 School Crime Supplement show that an adult was notified in less than half of bullying cases.

Kids don’t tell adults for many reasons:

  • Bullying can make a child feel helpless. Kids may want to handle it on their own to feel in control again. They may fear being seen as weak or a tattletale.
  • Kids may fear backlash from the kid who bullied them.
  • Bullying can be a humiliating experience. Kids may not want adults to know what is being said about them, whether true or false. They may also fear that adults will judge them or punish them for being weak.
  • Kids who are bullied may already feel socially isolated. They may feel like no one cares or could understand.

If you suspect that your child is being bullied, look for these signs.

  • Lost or destroyed clothing, books, electronics, or jewelry
  • Frequent headaches or stomach aches, feeling sick or faking illness
  • Changes in eating habits, like suddenly skipping meals or binge eating. Kids may come home from school hungry because they did not eat lunch.
  • Difficulty sleeping or frequent nightmares
  • Declining grades, loss of interest in schoolwork, or not wanting to go to school
  • Sudden loss of friends or avoidance of social situations
  • Feelings of helplessness or decreased self esteem
  • Self-destructive behaviors such as running away from home, harming themselves, or talking about suicide
  • Unexplainable injuries

The good news is that spending 15 minutes a day talking can reassure kids that they can you are open to talk if they have a problem.  All bullying is serious, but how it is handled should depend on the nature, severity and duration of the bullying behavior. Is it one kid saying mean things? Is it a group doing or saying or doing something? How long has it been going on? Is it physical, is the child afraid?

Sometimes it is necessary to report bullying and get others involved to help intervene.  But it is equally important to help kids be able to cope and work through issues related to bullying.

Encourage kids to take part in activities, interests, and hobbies they like. Kids can volunteer, play sports, sing in a chorus, or join a youth group or school club. These activities give kids a chance to have fun and meet others with the same interests. They can build confidence and friendships that help protect kids from bullying.

Promoting Resiliency in Kids

Resiliency is the human capacity to bounce back from bad experiences, or thrive in spite of hard times and difficulties.  Resiliency is something that everybody has, although some people may show it more clearly than others. Research has shown that kids are more resilient if:

  • They have supportive people around them
  • They think in a positive, optimistic way
  • They have good problem solving skills
  • They are involved with their community in a meaningful way
  • They have good social skills, like confidence and friendliness
  • They have good emotional skills, like knowing how to control anger
  • They have good, realistic self-esteem

Kids also learn from adults’ actions. By treating others with kindness and respect, adults show the kids in their lives that there is no place for bullying. Even if it seems like they are not paying attention, kids are watching how adults manage stress and conflict, as well as how they treat their friends, colleagues, and families.

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