We’ve all known of bullies in our formative years. We’ve felt the emotional turmoil that runs deep when we come in close contact with them. Unfortunately, this feeling is no different for school-aged children. Even with the increased prevalence of anti-bullying campaigns in our school systems, technology such as social media has exacerbated the issue and made it much more difficult for these programs to track and enforce. As such, it’s best to keep track of your child’s behavior outside of school and know how to address the topic of bullying if they exhibit the specific signs and symptoms. Let’s dive deeper into this topic and give you the effective communication solutions that you may need.
Signs and Effects of Bullying
When playful teasing becomes hurtful, unkind, and constant, it crosses the line into bullying and needs to stop. Bullying can take many shapes and forms ranging from hitting, shoving, mocking, and extorting money or possessions. A 2011 national survey on bullying from the U.S. Department of Education found that 27.8% of students aged 12-18 (over 6.8 million students) are currently being targeted by bullies at school. Bullying can leave deep emotional scars. In the most extreme situations, bullying may also involve violent threats, property damage, or worse.
If you have an inkling that your child is being affected by a bully, the first signs that you should hone in on are their sudden need to be withdrawn from life. They may only want to spend more time in the comfort of their room by themselves which might take a toll on their personality and social skills, leading to angry outbursts. Unless your child has visible bruises or injuries, it can be difficult to figure out if they are being affected by bullying. Since only about 20 to 30% of students who are being bullied choose to notify adults about what is happening, it can be difficult to know what is happening until it’s too late.
Effective Communication Strategies
If you notice that your child is acting more anxious than usual, skipping meals, sleeping exponentially more than usual, avoiding certain situations (like taking the bus to school), it might be because of a bully. Even if your child hasn’t yet exhibited these behaviors, it is still a good idea to be proactive in letting them know that they can turn to you for support. If they are not comfortable telling you, give them the option of informing another adult that can help them such as a teacher, school counselor, or family friend. They could also confide in a sibling or friend that can relay what is happening to the appropriate person.
Further, many children these days prefer to communicate via text messaging. It may be helpful, if your child likes to text, to develop a personal connection with them through texting directly, so that if the time comes, they may be more comfortable texting you or giving you a subtle hint, before talking about it.
If your child chooses to tell you about their experiences with a bully, make sure you listen calmly and offer comfort and support. Take the time to praise your child for doing the right thing by talking to you about it and remind them that they are not alone and that many people (not just kids) get bullied at some point in their lives. Remind your child that the bully is behaving badly and that they did nothing wrong and reassure them that you will figure out what to do about it together.
The truth is, you may not always be able to discern the effects of bullying based on a surface-level assessment. Being present and focusing on key signs can get you closer to identifying the root cause of your child’s emotional distress. In the end, it takes open and supportive communication between yourself and your child, and using communication tools that they’re comfortable with, to pinpoint the causes for their underlying issues and unlock a solution for how to circumvent their bullying trauma.
If your child is non-communicative or reluctant to speak about what’s on their mind, you are welcome to download Speakprose for free onto an iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch, and introduce it to them as a way to start to open up and share what’s on their mind.