How can you tell if your child is being bullied – and what can you do about it?
It can be hard for a child to explain what they are feeling and why, so the best clue that your child isn’t feeling OK is when their behaviour changes. These are some questions you can ask yourself around changed behaviours, which may point to your child being bullied:
Have they suddenly become quiet and withdrawn?
Are they finding it hard to get to sleep, having unexplained tummy upsets or headaches, or have they become much fussier about what they will eat?
Are they getting into lots more arguments or “playing up”?
Have they stopped enjoying things they used to like?
Sunday night signs of distress and reluctance about going to school can also suggest that something is worrying them about their school environment.
It’s much easier for a child to get angry, get into arguments or shout at others, than it is to admit to feeling scared and anxious. No child is just “bad” or the “problem child”. Behaviour is always a clue about how children are feeling, and it can be a bit of detective work to try to figure out what is making them feel less secure, anxious, worried or angry.
So, a good starting point, if a child’s behaviour has changed, is to think with them about things that might be making them anxious, scared or confused. Ask your child if they’d like to talk about worries, or have a go at saying what you think might be on their mind.
It’s always better for children (and adults) to be able to talk about bad feelings than to bottle them up, so try to give your child lots of chances to let you know how they are feeling. If they can’t talk to you, is there another family member they could talk to?
If you do suspect that your child is being bullied then it’s really important to talk to the school about what you have noticed, to open up communications so that your child can be supported. It’s important to address bullying as soon as you notice that it’s a problem because when bullying goes unaddressed it can impact on mental health and become more serious.
It can be very painful to see your child suffering. Good mental health for children starts with them knowing that, whatever they feel, their feelings are valid and real, and there is an adult who they can trust to listen and help them to think about this. Though it may really hurt you to be with those feelings while problems are worked out, remember that by being there for your child and allowing them to express their distressing feelings, this helps them to develop their emotional resilience. If they can talk about feelings when they are a child, this helps them to continue to have good mental health when they are an adult as well.
There are lots of support resources around bullying here. And look out for information around anti-bullying week, which takes place during w/c 14th November – follow the campaign hashtags on social platforms #AntiBullyingWeek #ReachOut