Children may be reluctant to tell an adult that they are being bullied. It can be an embarrassing topic to talk about, and teens especially are not eager to come out and admit that they are being bullied by peers. After all, who wants to admit that they’re a “social pariah” or unpopular among class-mates? Furthermore, many victims are afraid to tell anyone for fear that it might only make their situation worse. This makes it all the more important for attentive parents to be on the lookout for signs that a child is being bullied. Because by the time these symptoms start to manifest themselves, the bullying a child is experiencing is often quite severe.
Normally we’re not too keen on signs & symptoms lists, since they have a long history of being misused to diagnose any kid who behaves slightly off with whatever condition the symptom list is designed for (which is often so vague it could diagnose every child it was applied to). Yet this is one case where parents need to be attuned to the warning signs. We’ve seen far too many cases of parents remaining blissfully unaware when a child is throwing up red flags in their face. Worse yet, parents may misinterpret evasion attempts or symptoms of bullying (slipping grades, skipping school, “losing” things, etc.) as a child who is misbehaving and thus punish them further. So with that in mind, here are some signs that a child is being bullied. It doesn’t mean that any child who displays one or more of these things IS being bullied, it just means that when you notice these signs in a child, you might want to approach them with a little more concern and dig deeper to find out if anything is wrong.
Signs that a child is being bullied:
- He or she doesn’t want to go to school suddenly but won’t give you a reason.
- Your child suddenly starts to skip school or has truancy problems.
- While at school, a child often complains of illness or you get frequent calls from the nurses office saying that they are sick, yet there does not seem to be anything physically wrong with them.
- A child feels ill or seems lethargic in the morning before going to school. You may notice a drop in appetite, they may feel nauseous, or otherwise experience psychologically induced symptoms.
- A child is frightened of walking to or from school or doesn’t want to ride the bus. They may beg to be driven to school.
- A child seems deeply troubled by something but struggles to explain it or appears reluctant to disclose their problems.
- Your child seems upset or depressed either upon A) Returning from school, or B) During or after using the computer or getting on social networking sites (a sign of cyberbullying).
- Your child suddenly becomes more aggressive or disruptive at home or they begin bullying siblings/other children.
Other signs that a child is being bullied:
- A sudden drop in grades
- You observe changes in their usual routine
- They come home with torn clothes or damaged books
- A child starts getting jumpy and seems to startle easily
- A child starts stammering
- Your child doesn’t seem to bring home friends and doesn’t spend time at classmates homes
- A child seems to suddenly lose things or has possessions end up “missing”
- Comes home with unexplained cuts or bruises
- Lacks a good friend to share with on the phone or computer, or doesn’t seem to have anyone to engage in social events with
- Suddenly becomes withdrawn, anxious, or lacking in confidence
- Wants to run away from home or threatens suicide
- Cries in bed or has nightmares
- Seems to lose money or starts asking for money more often (signs that a bully might be taking it)
- Begins stealing money (to pay off a bully)
- Comes home from school hungry as if they haven’t eaten (a bully may be stealing food or lunch money)
- Seems frightened and won’t tell you what’s wrong
- Suddenly seems reluctant to participate in organized sports or other after school activities
- Makes up stories or gives improbable excuses for any of the above.
If you recognize any of these signs, you might want to do a little further investigating in a gentle way. Kids who are being bullied might be reluctant to talk about it, and may even resent your meddling in their affairs at first out of fear for what might happen. Yet all bullied children secretly desire assistance, even if it’s just to talk it over with someone.