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Signs Your Child Is Being Bullied - Tip Sheet


Signs Your Child Is Being Bullied

Bullying is an intentional, aggressive and repeated behavior that involves an imbalance of power or strength.

It can take several forms:

  • Physical (hitting, punching, beating)
  • Verbal (teasing, name calling, threats)
  • Emotional (intimidation using gestures, social exclusion, threats)
  • Sexual
  • Racist Bullying
  • Cyberbullying (Online harassment, hate messages, threats, impersonation, and other digital abuse)
  • Hazing

Warning Signs:

  • Your child comes home with torn, damaged, or missing pieces of clothing, books, or other belongings
  • Has unexplained cuts, bruises, and scratches
  • Has few, if any friends, with whom he or she spends time
  • Seems afraid of going to school, walking to and from school, riding the school bus, or taking part in organized activities with peers
  • Finds or makes up excuses as to why they can’t go to school
  • Takes a long out of the way route when walking to or from school
  • Has lost interest in school work or suddenly begins to do poorly in school
  • Appears sad, moody, teary, or depressed when he or she comes home
  • Complains frequently of headaches, stomachaches or other physical ailments
  • Has trouble sleeping or has frequent bad dreams
  • Experiences a loss of appetite
  • Appears anxious and suffers from low self-esteem

Note: Children with disabilities may be at a higher risk of being bullied than other children.

What to do if you suspect your child is a victim of bullying

The above signs are signs of bullying but are also signs of other abuse as well. If your child displays any of these signs talk with them and talk with the school staff to learn more about what’s going on.

When talking with your child, don’t just ask if they’re being bullied.

A better way to approach it is to say:

  • “I’ve heard a lot about bullying in the news. Is that going on at your school?”
  • “I’m worried about you. Are there any kids at school who may be picking on you or bullying you?”
  • “Are there any kids at school who tease you in a mean way?”
  •  “Are there any kids at school who leave you out or exclude you on purpose?”

Some subtle questions:

  • “Do you have any special friends at school this year? Who are they? Who do you hang out with?”
  • “Who do you sit with at lunch and on the bus?”
  • “Are there any kids at school who you really don’t like? Why don’t you like them? Do they ever pick on you or leave you out of things?”

If your kids or teens are being bullied do not over-react. Assure them that you love them that this is not your fault and you will help them. Let them know they can talk to you about anything.

Talk with your kid’s/teen’s school. Call or set up an appointment to talk with their teacher. Teachers are likely in the best position to understand the relationships between your child and other peers in their school.

Share your concerns about your child and ask the teacher such questions as:

  • “How does my child get along with other students in his or her class?”
  • “With whom does he or she spend free time?”
  • “Have you noticed or have you ever suspected that my child is being bullied by other students?” Offer some examples of some ways that kids and teens are bullied so the teacher fully understands  that you’re not focused on one form of bullying
  • Ask the teacher to talk with other faculty and staff who interact with your child at school to see whether they have observed your child being bullied by his or her peers
  • If you are not comfortable talking with your child’s teacher, or not satisfied with the conversation, make an appointment to meet with your child’s guidance counselor or principal to discuss these concerns
  • If you believe your child is being bullied take quick action as bullying can have serious effects on kids and teens

If, after talking with your child and his or her school and you don’t feel that your child is being bullied, stay alert to other possible problems that your child may be experiencing serious problems that could cause depression, social isolation, and loss of interest in school and share your concerns with a school counselor or psychologist.