Bullying is an unfortunate epidemic spanning generations, and as a parent it can be extremely difficult to believe one’s own children susceptible to its hurt. Today, bullying goes beyond locker room brawls to the netherworld of the Internet. Below are seven warning signs for parents to look out for. Children exhibiting these signs may be the victim of teasing, bullying, or worse at school, online, or at extracurricular activities.
1. Talking in Code
When talking to your child about his or her day at school or experience at a social activity, do they reply with words like “drama” or “messing around”? It is often extremely difficult and embarrassing for a child to admit he or she is being teased or bullied and he or she may try to mask harsher phrases like ‘I’m being bullied’ with these more gentle euphemisms. If you find your child consistently using this sort of language, probe for details on exactly what ‘messing around’ means.
2. Front Door to Fridge Door
Does your child come home constantly hungry? While ravenous bellies can be just a symptom of fast growing bodies, if you see a difference between your child’s weekend and weekday eating schedule it may be a symptom of cafeteria bullying. Children may stop eating at lunch because of being teased about their weight or they may avoid the cafeteria for fear of facing bullies.
3. Belongings Suddenly Disappear or Become Damaged
A child who has a tendency of losing or damaging his or her things may be a victim of bullying. This can be especially hard on children coming from less wealthy families who may feel guilty for needing expensive replacements. Keep up to date on your child’s most precious belongings and note if they feel defensive when asked about their condition.
4. Withdrawing or Blowing Up After Internet or Phone Use
A child who shows signs of becoming upset after receiving a text or retreating from the computer may be the victim of viral and cyber-bullying. Some parents might feel monitoring software to be a breach of trust, and a better option to survey whether or not cyber-bullying is happening is to locate computers in common areas within the home. If you see your children becoming upset after using a connective device, confront them with your concerns.
5. Turtleneck Fashion
A child who wears only long sleeves and jean pants may not be simply experimenting with fashion choices. Long sleeves are an easy way for a child to conceal visible signs of physical bullying. Afraid of parents’ judgment or retribution advice, a child may hide injuries and cuts for hopes of toughening it out.
6. Fading Friends
While some people naturally grow apart as they grow up, disappearing friends may also be signs of encroaching teasing and bullying. If the friends who use to call every night, join up with for projects, and plan sleep overs drop their social interactions, it may be time for you to ask your child just what happened.
7. Cancelled Events
While cancellations and early ending events and activities happen, the frequent termination of after-school activities may be a sign your child is being bullied. A child may choose to drop out of an activity or drop a hobby because of the continued teasing or bullying happening at it.
Talking to your child about bullying can be extremely difficult for both you and your child. Be sure to keep an open dialogue and reassure him or her that sharing painful information with you will be both non-judgmental and safe.
Byline: Aaron Gormley sees youth bullying as a main reason for folks to apply for social care jobs. Only with more social workers, will we be able to help tame the effects of bullying.