It’s that time of year again!
Back to School! I don’t know about you all, but three of my boys headed out the door this morning! The long summer days of family togetherness are over. Most kids, mine included, are excited to get out of the house, back to the school, and away from their siblings.
But that might not be the case for everyone.
Back to School may mean Back to Bullies for some kids.
How to tell if your child is being bullied?
Bullying does not look like it did when we grew up. When we were young, someone maybe took your lunch money, pushed you around a bit, or teased and harassed you in front of all of your friends. Maybe they’d tape “kick me” to your back, lock you in a locker, or throw your textbooks in the garbage.
While these forms of bullying may still go on, they aren’t as common anymore.
Social media and cell phones have opened up a whole new world of bullying, and I’m still having trouble wrapping my mind around it.
We’ve all heard horror stories of kids hurting each other with social media; pictures going up on FaceBook or being passed around that were not meant to be shared – that should never have been taken in the first place. I’ve just recently learned how to use SnapChat, and I can see how that would be the perfect breeding ground for bullying, because the pictures disappear after opening.
If you are like me, and oblivious to the different forms bullying could come in now-a-days, then how do you even know if your child is being bullied?
Without the tell-tale signs, such as black eyes or bruises, it can be difficult.
What makes it really hard is some children won’t disclose the bullying. If your child is being bullied, she might be embarrassed about it.
She might think that she is doing something wrong, socially, and in a sense, ‘ask for’ or ‘deserve’ to be bullied.
She might be worried about the repercussions of disclosure; maybe the bully has threatened her and upped the ante if she told. Or maybe your child is just worried about how you will react to the bullying. Some kids may think their parents will over-react and some may think their parents won’t act at all. Whatever the reason, your child might be slow to disclose.
So how can you tell if your child is being bullied at school?
KidsHealth.org offers these signs to look for:
- Your child acts differently than normal
- Your child seems anxious
- Your child is not eating well
- Your child is not sleeping well
- Your child is not doing the activities that he or she usually enjoys
- Your child is moodier than normal
- Your child gets upset easier than normal
- Your child has started avoiding certain situations, like taking the bus to school
If your child exhibits any of these signs, and you are concerned that he or she may be experiencing bullying, talk to them about it. Take care to be gentle. Ask open-ended questions (as opposed to questions that can be answered with a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’) and hold your tongue. Don’t be quick to judge. Validate your child’s feelings, letting your child know that it is okay to feel what he or she may be feeling.
If your child does not disclose the bullying immediately, don’t push it. Let your child open up when he or she is ready to. Use ‘teachable moments’ to encourage conversation. For instance, if there is a scene in a show about bullying, touch on that scene. Ask your child how that person in the show might be feeling. Look for natural ways to start a conversation.
While you may not immediately have all of the answers, promise your child that you will work it out together.
Get in touch with someone at the school, such as a trusted counselor, teacher, or the principal. They will know what steps need to be taken and will guide you through that process. If your child is being threatened or physically harmed, contact the police as well.
In the meantime, encourage your child to use a ‘buddy system’, so that he or she is never alone, if the bullying is physical. If the bullying is happening on or with any kind of technology, contact the content provider. Cyberbullying.org has an updated contact list of all providers at cyberbullying.us/report. “Cyber bullying violates the Terms of Service of all legitimate service providers (websites, apps, internet or cell phone companies)” according to cyberbullying.org.
If you need more information, Pacer.org is a great place to start.
And as always, go on the offensive. Start building a good, solid relationship of trust and respect with your child now. A good relationship will open the door for all communication down the road, not just with bullying. If your child becomes a target, she will feel more safe and secure, talking to you about it, if you have a good relationship.
Making It Real…….
Start this school year off on the right foot! Make a point of building your relationship with your child every day. Just like a friendship or a marriage, your relationship with your child takes daily work. You are never done; use every day moments to show your child you care. You child will come to you when times get tough if he feels he can trust you.
Look for ways to casually discuss bullying, even if your child is not being bullied. Talking about it now, when it is not happening, will make it easier to discuss when it is happening. Maybe there was something about it on the news, in a movie or online? Maybe a friend has recently been bullied. Or maybe the school had an assembly or a class on bullying. Use these naturally-occurring moments to discuss bullying with your child.
Has your child ever been bullied? What did you do about it? And did it stop the harassment? Let us know! Leave a comment below or head on over to Making Mommas on FaceBook to join the conversation!