School Bullying Warning Signs

Is Your Child Being Bullied? Read These Warning Signs

Written by Adele Keyser

Bullying is a widespread and serious problem than can happen anywhere and can cause serious and lasting harm.

This post follows on from my previous post, 8 Violence Free Ways to Fight a Bully.

Although definitions of bullying vary, they all agree that bullying involves:

  • Imbalance of power
  • Intent to cause harm
  • Repetition

BUT how do you know if your child is being bullied?  Start by looking for/being aware of changes in your child.  Remember that not all children being bullied exhibit warning signs and that these warning signs could also point to other issues/problems e.g. depression, substance abuse etc.  BY talking to your child you can help identify the root of the problem.

Warning Signs

  • Comes home with lost, destroyed, damaged or missing clothing or belongings, e.g. books, electronics, jewelry.
  • Complains frequently of headaches, stomachaches feeling sick or faking illness.
  • Has trouble sleeping or has nightmares.
  • Has changes in eating habits e.g. skipping meals, binge eating, not eating lunch at school – comes home hungry.
  • Self-destructive behaviour – hurts themselves, talking about suicide, running away from home.
  • Loses interest in visiting or talking with friends, sudden loss of friends, avoidance of social situations.
  • Afraid of going to school.
  • Declining grades (loses interest in school), not wanting to go to school or other activities with peers.
  • Feelings of helplessness or decreased self-esteem – appears sad, angry, anxious, depressed when they come home.
  • Unexplained physical marks, cuts, bruises, scrapes – unexplained injuries.
  • Often feels that they are not good enough, blames themselves for their problems.
  • Avoids certain places, afraid to be alone.
  • Marked change in typical behaviour or personality (acts differently to usual) – sad, mood swings, teary.
  • Begins bullying siblings or younger children.
  • Waits to get home to use bathroom.
  • Less accepted by peers, avoid conflict, socially withdrawn.

Repeated Bullying

Repeated bullying causes severe emotional harm and can erode a child’s mental health.  It doesn’t matter what type of bullying it is, the long-term effects are equally harmful.

Higher risk of substance abuse, depression, anxiety and hostility – the following symptoms may persist in adult hood:

  • Increased feelings of sadness and loneliness, changes in sleep and eating patterns, loss of interest in activities.
  • Increased suicide risk – in one study, adults who recalled being bullied in their childhood were three times more likely to have suicidal thoughts or inclinations.
  • Poor school performance.
  • Increased risk of developing antisocial personality disorder – this disorder is linked with a greater risk of becoming a criminal.
  • Are more likely to have health complaints.
  • Have decreased academic achievement and school participation.
  • Are likely to miss, skip or drop out of school.
  • Are likely to retaliate through extremely violent measures.

Bullying has serious and lasting effects. While these effects may be caused by other factors, research has found that bullying has significant effects for those who are bullied.

If you think/know that your child is being bullied but has not confided in you (even though you’ve asked all the correct questions and shown all the right emotions and given the correct support) ask for advice from:

  • Your child’s teacher
  • The guidance counselor, social worker or support team at your child’s school
  • Minister
  • Psychologist

BUT get your child help immediately – that is of paramount importance.  Bullying must not be tolerated in any environment.

The Author - Adele Keyser

Adele has 27 years experience in teaching pre-primary, foundation phase, intermediate-senior phase and adult education. That's 27 years experience in dealing with children (and parents!). Currently teaching in Cape Town, her major focus is building classroom environments that foster healthy self-esteem and help children realise what they're capable of.

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