One in seven children (from kindergarten through grade 12) are either a bully or a victim of bullying, according to the Anti-Bullying Institute. Your child might not tell you that they are being bullied, so here are five signs to look out for:
1. Excuses to get out of school
You should worry if your child makes up excuses for why they shouldn't go to school. An estimated 160 thousand children in the United States miss school every day because they are afraid of being bullied. Some children pretend to be sick occasionally so they can stay home to play with their toys and video games, avoid classwork and eat whatever they want, but when they are "sick" often, this is a red flag they may be bullied at school.
Look out for a sudden drop in grades. If they bring home one bad test, don't worry, but parents should take action if it becomes a pattern. Consider other reasons behind a bad score besides not enough study time. The issue might not be academic at all - anxiety from being bullied could affect your child's concentration at school. Talk to your child's teacher to find out more. Their teacher won't have all the answers, but can help keep and eye on the situation since they are with your child for most of the day.
3. Change in mood
Don't brush off your child's sour moods. Bad days happen for everyone, but if your typically happy child is now regularly coming home from school afraid, angry or sad, this could be cause for concern.
4. Damaged or lost belongings
Damaged or missing belongings is a sign of bullying. Your child might come up with excuses and it's up to you as the parent to determine the difference between excuses and the truth. You know your child best, so use your gut to find out whether they just dropped their notebook in a puddle or if someone else threw it in. Remember to look for patterns. Dropping a notebook one day is no big deal, but if they continue to "accidently" drop or lose their things, it's probably no accident.
Bullying isn't just emotional; it can be physical, too. Keep in mind that sometimes kids fall at recess, so one bruise shouldn't be cause for alarm. However, if they continue to come home with unexplained cuts and bruises, it could be a sign of bullying.
Don't just ask your child if they are being bullied. They won't want to answer that question and could become defensive, which can make it even harder for you to help. Being a part of your child's life is one of the best things you can do to prevent bullying.
Instead, ask about their friends. When they come home from school, ask about any new friends they've made so far and ask about what they did together at recess. If your child says they don't have any friends, encourage them to make connections. Invite them to ask a lonely classmate to play or suggest having a get together this weekend with some children from the neighborhood.
It's also important to remember that bullying doesn't just happen in the schoolyard. With today's technology, kids can be harassed in their own homes. Your child may be bullied through their electronic device.
You don't have tackle this problem this alone. Your child's teacher and principal, along with trusted family members, can provide help. First and foremost, continue to be a part of your child's life. Help them feel comfortable sharing and coming to you for help by listening and reminding them how much you love them.