It’s something all parents worry about. As much as we hope our kids will never experience bullying, and that if they do, they speak up so we can help them, it’s important to keep an eye out for any warnings it might be taking place.
For many children, bullying takes away their sense of control, meaning some choose to try and handle the situation themselves in an attempt to take it back. Others keep quiet because they’re afraid of the repercussions of ‘telling’.
While the world we grew up in may be very different to the one our kids are growing up in now, many of the signs someone is being bullied remain the same. Here are some of the most common red flags to look out for...
Making excuses to avoid school or social situations
One of the earliest warning signs that something is amiss is when there’s a sudden change in your child’s enthusiasm for school or social activities they normally enjoy.
If complaints of a headache or upset tummy start to become a regular feature on a school night but disappear on a Friday, then it could be worth sitting down for a heart-to-heart.
Hiding their phone or messages from you
You may have installed monitoring software if your child has a smartphone. However, if you haven’t and have noticed they’ve started to hide their screen when you’re nearby, they may be receiving unpleasant or upsetting messages.
According to research by anti-bullying organisation, Ditch the Label, one in four children and young adults worry about receiving abuse online. Check out Internet Matters for tailored advice on keeping your kids safe in the digital world.
Unexplained injuries or damaged clothing
Although the rise of cyberbullying may be in the spotlight these days, it’s not to say acts of violence have gone away.
Unexplained cuts and bruises, damaged school uniform or missing personal belongings or money, may suggest physical bullying is taking place.
Changes in personality and behaviour
Becoming withdrawn or acting out of character are common responses to being bullied, as it harms our self-confidence and makes us feel socially-isolated.
You may notice your child’s appetite has changed, for example eating less or ‘binging’ on sweet treats and snack. Their sleeping pattern could have become disrupted too – they may be having nightmares or struggling to drift off.
What to do if you think you’ve noticed any of these signs
The first step is always to gently try and encourage your child to open up. They may not choose to, or you may not have read things correctly – but importantly, they’ll know you’re there for them, which is incredibly powerful in itself.
Get in touch with their school teachers to see if they’re aware of any potential situation, and to ask them to keep an extra eye out.
It may be worth reaching out to any fellow parents you know and trust from your child’s class to ask if they’ve noticed anything out-of-the-ordinary too.
If you’re really worried that your child is becoming distressed, anxious or even depressed because of bullying, speak to your GP as soon as possible.
Monday 16th November to Friday 20th November marks Anti-Bullying Week 2020. Why not get the whole family involved in their Odd Sock Day campaign to show your support? To find out more, click here.
Trutex support The Diana Award’s Antibullying Ambassador training, where schools can take part in free Anti-bullying training for their pupils.
A peer led approach to help tackle bullying in schools. You can take part in their virtual Anti-bullying event this year, for more information about the charity visit: https://www.antibullyingpro.com/