How do I know if my teenager is being bullied?
Bullying is a common problem among teenagers, but yours might not tell you if it’s happening to them. I know that it can be scary to think that your child is being bullied and you don’t know it.
I’ve learned, however, that there are signs that will help you know if your teenager is being bullied. Even if you don’t see the bullying taking place, these signs will alert you to the trouble that your teen is facing.
If your child is dealing with a bully who hurts him, he may have bruises, scrapes and cuts. He may not offer explanations for these injuries or may give implausible excuses.
He may also come home with damaged property, or his personal articles may go missing. This can include his schoolbooks, valuables or clothing.
Another symptom of bullying involves complaints about physical ailments. Your teen might frequently claim to have headaches or stomachaches. These symptoms can be a very real side effect of the stress and worry caused by the bullying.
However, complaints of aches and pains can also be made up excuses to avoid situations where bullying might take place. It can be hard for you to tell whether they are actually experiencing the ailments or faking sick. Either way, if they are frequently pulling a sicky, you should consider bullying as a potential reason.
Not all bullying involves physical injury. A bully may also belittle, tease or spread destructive rumors. In this situation, you will have to look for emotional symptoms and changes in your teen’s behavior rather than physical injuries.
A bullied teen may make negative comments about herself. She may criticize her weight, intelligence or appearance. A bully has the power to wear down a victim’s self-esteem, and that can come out in the way that your teen talks about herself.
Anger is another common side effect of bullying. This is how a teen’s stress over a situation out of his or her control often manifests.
If the problem becomes severe enough, they may eventually talk about harming themselves. They may even bring up the idea of suicide.
Students who are being bullied may change their attitudes toward school. If the bullying is happening at school, a teenager who used to enjoy attending classes may suddenly show reluctance to go.
Your teenager may start asking you to drive him or her to school instead of taking the bus. This could be a sign that bullying is taking place on the bus.
Students may also let their schoolwork slip. Grades may fall as students neglect their studies or are unable to focus on their work because of stress and worry.
If school and schoolmates are involved in the bullying incidents, you might notice that your teen’s behavior changes on the weekends. While he or she is moody and withdrawn during the school week, the easygoing “old self” reappears over the weekends.
A child who is being bullied may be unable to sleep well. He or she may toss and turn or have nightmares. One study found that over one-third of kids with sleep issues had experienced bullying.
You may also notice a change in your teen’s eating habits. A bullied kid may not show interest in eating much. On the other hand, they may come home from school ravenous. If a bully is harassing him at lunchtime, he may be famished by the time he gets home in the afternoon.
A bullied teen may also run away from home or talk about running away. This can be a method of trying to leave behind the people and situations that are making your child feel so miserable.
Learn more about behavioral changes related to bullying in Carillion Clinic’s video “Bullying Fact Check.”
A teen who used to be quite social may become withdrawn. Despite encouragement to go out and do things with friends, she may be reluctant to engage in social activities.
Students may also avoid their old group of friends. You might notice that your teen doesn’t talk about the same friends that he used to. This can be an indication that the former friends have become involved with the bullies.
What to Do with the Signs?
Teens can be reluctant to tell their parents when they are the victims of bullying. However, if you recognize some of these signs in your teenagers, you should have a talk with them.
If you keep your emotions and reactions in check, your child will be more likely to share with you. Making a big deal out of the situation can cause your teenager to clam up. Yes, bullying is a serious problem, but your teen will appreciate your helping him with a level head rather than a quick-tempered reaction.
Instead, ask them to share details with you. Ask specific questions that will help you assess the situation. For example, ask:
- Which people were there when the incident happened?
- What was said to you?
- How did you react?
Once you have procured details about the bullying that is taking place, come up with an action plan together. Your teen should be encouraged to stand up herself but without fighting or using physical aggression. Walking away is often a wise move.
After you have clearly evaluated the situation, you may be able to bring in outside help from a teacher or other adult to keep an eye on things. If there is theft or injury occurring, you may also need to involve the police.
No matter what, be supportive of your teen. Knowing that you are on his or her side is the first step to getting out from under the influence of a bully.
Bullying can be scary for both teens and parents, but once you recognize the signs in your child, you can begin to help.
Remember these tips for bullying awareness:
- Look for injuries and illnesses that could be indicative of bullying.
- Listen for comments that indicate that your teenager is stressed or worried or is lacking in self-esteem.
- Keep a lookout for changes in your student’s eating, sleeping, school or social habits.
- If you suspect bullying, have a calm conversation to find out details and craft an action plan together.