Parents go to great lengths to protect their children. Keeping a watchful eye is a great way to protect kids when they’re around the house, but parents may need to look for more subtle signs to determine if their children are being mistreated when they leave home.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services notes that roughly 20% of students between the ages of 12 and 18 experience bullying nationwide. Parents might once have written off bullying as part of growing up, but research has long since indicated that bullying can be very harmful to youngsters. The DHHS notes that research indicates that persistent bullying can lead to or exacerbate feelings of isolation, rejection, exclusion and despair. Children who are persistently bullied also may experience new or worsening feelings of anxiety and depression.
Parents can play a vital role in preventing bullying. Much of that role involves parents educating themselves about bullying, including what it is and what it’s not and what are some warning signs that a child is involved in bullying.
What is bullying?
The DHHS website stopbullying.gov defines bullying as unwanted, aggressive behavior among school-aged children that involves a real or perceived imbalance of power. Bullying behavior is repeated or has the potential to be repeated over time. The imbalance of power associated with bullying involves the children who bully using some semblance of power they have over the children they’re bullying to harm or control those youngsters. Their power may be physical strength, access to embarrassing information or popularity.
What isn’t bullying?
Various types of aggressive behavior have the potential to be harmful, but they do not fall under the umbrella of bullying. For example, stopbullying.gov notes that children between the ages of 3 and 5 are learning how to coexist with one another, including how to share and cooperate. Children in these age groups may be aggressive if they don’t get what they want, but their actions in such instances do not constitute bullying. More information about potentially harmful, non-bullying behaviors is available at stopbullying.gov.
What are some signs a child is being bullied?
The DHHS notes that not all children who are being bullied exhibit warning signs. In addition, some signs might be more subtle than others. But some potential indicators that a child is being bullied include:
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. For example, children who are being bullied 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.
What are some signs a child is bullying other children?
Parents also should be on the lookout for signs their children are bullying other youngsters. Such signs include:
Kids get into physical or verbal altercations.
Children have friends who bully others.
Increasingly aggressive behavior
Frequent trips to the principal’s office or to detention.
Kids have extra money or new belongings but cannot explain how they got the cash or items.
Kids blame others for their problems.
An unwillingness to accept responsibility for their actions.
Kids are competitive and worry about their reputation or popularity.
Parents have a vital role to play in preventing bullying so all youngsters feel safe and sound inside and outside of school.