Bullying is that thing that comes in all shapes and sizes. It comes directly with physical contact. It happens with words spoken or through social media. And it doesn’t always happen to the shy or seemingly awkward kids. It can happen to anyone, and when it does, it takes parents completely by storm when your child is being bullied.
In fact, recent studies by the National Center for Education Statistics and Bureau of Justice indicate that, nationwide, about 20% of students ages 12-18 experienced bullying. This means that 1 in every 5 middle school and high school-aged children will experience bullying, with even more parents experiencing it secondhand.
The challenge parents are faced with isn’t just the bullying their child is experiencing, but recognizing the signs of bullying, and acting before it’s too late. It’s knowing what is defined as bullying and walking the line between caution and action. It’s knowing what actions to take to ensure the safety of your own child and others if your child is being bullied.
Bullying: The Definition
According to stopbullying.gov, bullying happens when there is an imbalance of power repeated more than once. An imbalance of power can be demonstrated through physical strength, using embarrassing information or popularity to control or harm others. When this happens more than once, or has the potential to repeat itself, that’s when it can be defined as bullying.
For instance, a middle school-aged boy is being harrassed in the boy’s locker room through advances directed toward him that make him feel uncomfortable. This happens several times and escalates in that boy being harassed after school, in the classroom and hallway, and then to unwanted physical contact and even harm.
Bullying often starts off small and slowly escalates to something worse.
What are the Signs That Your Child is Being Bullied
As much as you’d like to, you can’t walk the halls with your child, or even be in on every conversation online. Even so, you can be aware of signs that you child shows at home that something isn’t right, that could very possibly be bullying. Some include:
- Unexplainable injuries from physical harm
- Lost or destroyed property like clothes or electronics
- Frequent headaches or stomach aches, or faking illness to miss school
- Sudden change in eating habits, like skipping meals or binge eating
- Difficulty sleeping or having nightmares
- Declining grades, loss of interest in schoolwork, or not wanting to go to school
- Avoiding social situations and loss of friends
- Feelings of helplessness
- Self-destructive behaviors like self-harm or suicidal tendencies
What to Do if You Suspect Bullying
If you suspect your child is experiencing bullying, talk to him or her. Keep an open dialogue about what bullying is and be direct. Ask if there are people who make your child feel unsafe, and make sure your child knows that it is important to talk about it.
If you find that your child is being bullied, don’t be afraid to be his advocate. Talk to school administration to put a plan in place to ensure the safety of your child and of others who could be experiencing the same. Teach your child how to stand up for himself or how to leave a toxic situation online. Continue to be proactive until your child feels safe, and keep going long after that.
Because unfortunately bullying is something that happens even beyond the school ages, and the sooner your child learns what to look for and how to work his way through it, the safer and more confident he will feel as he goes through life. It all starts now.
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