Compared to 20 years ago, the amount of bullying at school is generally lower, but with the evolution of social media, students are more connected than ever when away from school, and the opportunities for cyberbullying are, unfortunately, nearly limitless.
With schools moving back to the classroom after more than a year of determining how to go about educating during a pandemic, both cyberbullying and in-person bullying are once again possibilities.
Mental health issues in children also increased during the pandemic, which means some kids may resort to bullying due to trauma, and others may be more susceptible to being harmed by bullying, as the stress from the pandemic can leave them more vulnerable.
If you believe your child is getting bullied, addressing the problem immediately can help prevent both short and long-term issues from forming. Here’s how to help!
How to Know if Your Child is Being Bullied
Maintaining a positive and supportive dialog with your children makes it much easier for them to simply tell you when they face issues such as bullying. However, even with a very open dialog, some children are embarrassed to admit they are having issues, and some are naturally stubborn and want to fix the issues themselves.
Neither of these scenarios are particularly healthy, however, and even the strongest kids benefit from having mom or dad in their corners when battling with bullies. Here are some signs your child may be being bullied at school or online (or both).
- Physical signs – though not all bullying is physical, inexplicable signs of harm could mean bullying
- Nightmares and difficulty sleeping
- Poor eating habits or changes in eating habits
- Bad grades
- Stomach aches
- Social isolation
- “Lost” valuables like phones (that were actually stolen from bullies)
Any sort of behavior that can be taken as self-destructive could mean bullying (or other issues) and should be discussed with your child.
How You Can Help
If your child is threatening any sort of self-harm, take them to the hospital immediately. If you notice some of these signs above, open up a discussion, and determine if your child is being bullied. Here are some additional things you can do to help:
- Contact an individual at the location of the bullying. For school, that can be a teacher, counselor, or principal. For online bullying, you may have to do a bit more to find a source who can approach the bully(s), but other parents are certainly options.
- Teach your kids anti-bully behaviors. Passive efforts to avoid bullying should be made first, and telling your kids to say things like “I don’t care what you say” or “Whatever” is an optimistic first step. If the bullying persists, you may have to encourage a bit more direct behavior such as “Back off” or “get away from me.” The latter may evoke a sort of “make me!” response, but putting down a bully is not recommended, even when they are very over the top, as they can be more aggressive after being insulted.
- Keep talking it out. Talk to your children about their emotions and about whether or not the bullying is getting more or less frequent.
- Encourage, encourage, encourage. Being bullied at some point is almost unavoidable, but telling your kids they are great will help them react to bullying dismissively and ultimately not care about what bullies have to say.
If issues persist and your child continues to be traumatized by a bully, getting them professional help can help prevent long-term issues caused by bullying. Some schools offer counseling services, but generally only during the months that school is in session.
Stopbullying.gov is a great resource for parents and kids alike to find professional help and other resources to help in their fight against bullies.