Out of Sight, Not Out of Mind: How to Know if Your Child Is Being Bullied
Bullies. They are everywhere – at school, at the neighborhood playground and now, more than ever, online. When 90 percent of children in fourth through eighth grade report that they are victims of bullies, how do you protect your child?
Start by knowing what to look for. Today’s bullies don’t always throw punches and they often attack when adults aren’t around. According to Dean Clinic Family Medicine Dr. Joanna Bisgrove, many times you won’t see the pain a bullied child may be in.
“Usually bullying is very subtle, out of the line of sight of adults,” Bisgrove says. “There are often no visible bruises, in fact, the bruises tend to be more emotional than anything else.”
Dr. Bisgrove recommends watching for these common signs that your child is being bullied:
- Is your child becoming withdrawn? Does your child refuse to go out to play when friends ask?
- Is your child suddenly coming up with any excuse to stay home from school? Often new excuses to stay home include physical complaints like a headache or stomach ache.
- Is your child suddenly having trouble sleeping?
- When your child is on the computer, sees a text message or gets a phone, does your child get scared or try to hide the text or images from you?
- Has a teacher mentioned that your child is not as focused in class as normal?
All of these signs could mean your child is being bullied.
So what do you do about it? First, ask how your child is doing with gentle and sincere questions like: “how’s everything going” or “how is everything at school.” Dr. Bisgrove stressed that asking open, gentle questions is important to making a bullied child feel safe.
“What can happen is your child can feel like ‘well, if I tell on someone, then I’m at risk of becoming more of a victim,’” says Dr. Bisgrove. “A lot of times a bullied child can feel that way … that tattling to some degree just means more pain to come.”
Identifying that your child is being bullied can be important to keeping your child safe and healthy for years to come. Children who are bullied are more likely to have issues with depression, anxiety and other mental health issues later on in life.
If you want to help your child avoid becoming the victim of a bully, work to boost their self-esteem and self-worth. Try out new activities together to find something they like and can feel good about.
If your child is being bullied and you need help addressing the issue and teaching your child how to cope with the emotional bruises from bullying, your family physician or pediatrician can help. You can also contact Dean Clinic’s Psychology Department. Many of our Psychologists focus on Child Psychology and will provide you and your child with tools to cope with the long lasting effects of bullying.