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In recent years, “bullying” has become a hot button word that parents have several concerns and opinions on. Bullying behavior in children and adolescents is deliberate and repeated mistreatment toward a peer or group of peers.

Bullying can take many different forms. Some types of bullying are more obvious and easy to identify while others are more subtle. Physical, Verbal, Sexual, Social, and Cyberbullying are the main categories of bullying that children experience. 

Physical bullying - Physical bullying includes repeated hitting, kicking, punching, and pushing or damaging property.

Verbal bullying - Verbal bullying includes repeated name-calling, insults, teasing, intimidation, or homophobic or racist slurs.

Sexual Bullying- Sexual bullying includes repeated inappropriate touching or jokes. Sexual Bullying can also be is harassment that is connected to a person’s sex, gender, sexual orientation or sexual activity.

Social bullying - Social bullying, is often harder to recognize and can be carried out behind the bullied person's back. Social bullying includes repeated:

  • Excluding or leaving someone out
  • Spreading rumors
  • Damaging someone's social reputation or social acceptance

Cyberbullying - sending, posting, or sharing mean things online using computers, phones, tablets, and more. Cyberbullying can include repeated:

  • Abusive or hurtful texts emails or posts, images or videos
  • Deliberately excluding others online
  • Gossip or rumors

Is My Child Being Bullied?

Your child may be experiencing bullying if:

  • Your child comes home with torn, damaged, or missing pieces of clothing, books, or other belongings
  • Has unexplained cuts, bruises, and scratches
  • Has few, if any friends, with whom he or she spends time
  • Seems afraid of going to school, walking to and from school, riding the school bus, or taking part in organized activities with peers
  • Obsession or withdrawal from electronic devices
  • Has lost interest in schoolwork or suddenly begins to do poorly in school
  • Appears sad, moody, teary, or depressed when he or she comes home
  • Complains frequently of headaches, stomachaches or other physical ailments
  • Has trouble sleeping or has frequent bad dreams
  • Experiences a loss of appetite
  • Appears anxious and suffers from low self-esteem

Your child may hide the fact that they are experiencing bullying for many reasons. Some kids feel as though talking to parents about bullying could make their situation worse or cause stress for their parents.

How to Address Bullying

If you suspect that your child is being bullied, it can be helpful to initiate a conversation that is less intimidating than asking, “Are you being bullied?” directly. Some examples of conversation starters include: 

  • “I’ve heard a lot about bullying in the news. Is that going on at your school?”
  • “Do you have any best friends at school this year? Who are they? Who do you hang out with?”
  • “Who do you sit with at lunch and on the bus?”
  • “Are there any kids at school who you really don’t like? Why don’t you like them? Do they ever pick on you or leave you out of things?”

If your child tells you that they are experiencing bullying, it is very important to remain calm and reassure them that you are there to listen and help in any way that you can.

If your child is a victim of bullying, here are some helpful tips to address the situation:

  • Ask your child to tell you what is going on.
  • It is important to respond in a positive and accepting manner. Let your child know it is not his or her fault and that he or she did the right thing by telling you.
  • Provide opportunities for your child to talk with you in an open and honest way.
  • Don’t encourage your child to fight back. Coach them to try walking away to avoid the bully or seek help from a teacher, coach or other adult.
  • Ask your child’s teacher or the school counselor to develop a strategy to stop the bullying.
  • If your child becomes withdrawn, depressed or reluctant to go to school, seek professional assistance early to lessen the risk of lasting emotional consequences.

After speaking to your child about bullying, it may be helpful to talk to your child’s teachers or other school personnel to get an idea of how your child interacts with their peers. Together, you can develop a plan for addressing the bullying that your child is facing at school.