As far as I know, neither of my kids have fallen victim to bullying **knocks on wood**, but as Boy Wonder gears up for junior high, visions of tight-fisted collar threats and backpack pummeling dance through my worried mom head.
Would I know if my child was being bullied? Would my child tell me? The truth is, I don't know, especially because I never told.
As someone who was bullied throughout elementary school, I know how shameful and frightening it can be to fall victim to a peer aggressor. I never told my parents. I never told my friends. I kept the toxic secret out of fear for myself, and sadly, out of fear for what would happen to my bully.
As parents, we'd all like to think that we'd know if our child was being bullied. Unfortunately, victims of bullying will often go to great lengths to hide their painful truth. Take a look at 7 signs to watch out for:
1. Unexplained injuries
Unexplained bruises, bumps, and scrapes, or any injury that your child attempts to hide is cause for immediate concern. Remind your child that no one has the right to harm them, and encourage them to provide you with the information required to work with school officials and end the abuse.
2. Tattered, torn, missing
If your child returns from school with tattered, torn, or missing belongings without reasonable explanation, you'll want to investigate possible causes in a direct and supportive manner.
3. Suffers from physical ailments
Headaches, tummy troubles, and faking illness to get out of school can be indicative of emotional trauma. Bullying can negatively affect your child's physical and emotional health in a variety of ways, so remain vigilant of potential causes for concern.
4. Loss of interest in school
If your once well-performing student suddenly loses interest in school or begins performing poorly, you'll want to talk with your child and his teacher about potential causes. Your child's teacher may be able to provide valuable insight pertaining to peer relations.
5. Self-destructive behaviors
Riddled with shame and confusion, many victims of bullying have a difficult time asking for help. Never ignore symptoms involving self-harm, talk of suicide or running away, or other dangerous behaviors.
6. Low self-esteem
Never dismiss sudden anxiety, depression, or signs of low self-esteem as emotional "growing pains," as any new or distressing behaviors require immediate parental attention. Work to establish an ongoing dialog with your child, one in which they feel safe enough to talk openly and honestly about their fears.
7. Prefers to be alone
If your once social child begins isolating himself from friends and family, take the appropriate steps to learn why. Did your child get into a disagreement with friends? Is he being bullied? Have his friends turned against him? If your child seems uncomfortable with your direct line of questioning, attempt a more subtle approach such as, "Who do you enjoy spending time with at school?" and "How do you think the school year is going so far?"
If there's a silver lining to be found, I'd say that we're experiencing what feels like a universal shift in the consciousness of bullying. Parents, teachers, and students are no longer willing to turn a blind eye to physical and emotional abuse within our schools, but our work is far from over. When we take the time to educate ourselves, our children, and our school administrators on ways to recognize, prevent, and stop bullying, we then can stand united in the protection of all students and make a positive difference. Check out the many valuable resources and tools available from StopBullying.gov and the National Crime Prevention Council to learn how.
-By Lori Garcia