It is important to recognize the warning signs of bullying so that you can help your children or the children in your life no matter what age they are.
Homeschooling is becoming more prevalent and is the only option for some kids in late 2020, but the issue of bullying is just as relevant as ever. In 2019, about one in five students were the victims of bullying behaviors like name calling, rumors, social exclusion, and physical violence. Some studies pushed that number even higher.
As many students spend more time online due to social distancing in the wake of the pandemic, rates of online bullying are likely to increase. The rate of physical bullying is likely to decline as schools operate at reduced capacity or remain closed altogether. Unfortunately, the spread of rumors, name calling, and social exclusion will simply carry on if not accelerate through social media and even online learning platforms.
Kids of all ages are now dealing not only with bullying but also forced isolation from their peers. They're spending more time alone than ever before and are likely worrying about family finances and dynamics due to economic struggles hitting homes around the world. Add on even modest or occasional bullying, and it's the recipe for long-lasting stress and emotional disruption.
So, how do you know your child is being bullied? It may seem harder now because changes in routines and attitudes can be attributed to other factors like social isolation and disrupted learning, but the warning signs of bullying are there. The following list will give you some insight into signs of bullying that all parents should pay attention to, especially as the world struggles to find a new normal after the pandemic.
1. Frequent unexplained headaches, stomachaches, and other physical illness.
In some cases, children and teenagers will fake illness to avoid going to school because they do not want to endure the bullying another day. In other cases, kids may experience legitimate physical illness in response to bullying. They may feel nauseous, anxious, or develop headaches as a result of the bullying or when it's time to go back to an environment where bullying occurs.
Whether it's real, faked, or imagined, think of frequent illness as a cry or help. There is something causing mental and physical distress in your child, and they may need someone to talk to or a way out of the situation.
2. Withdrawal from social interaction and family life.
Bullied children often turn down invitations to social events, stop talking to friends online, and may also remove themselves from family events. They may self-isolate because they do not want to open themselves to more bullying experiences.
How does this work during a pandemic when kids are forced to separate themselves from others to remain free of illness? You may still notice that your child isn't communicating with friends they spoke to often prior to the pandemic. Maybe they seem anxious or delay responding when they receive a message notification on their phone. Any of these could be the warning signs of bullying.
They may also go in the opposite direction and seem to spend more time online because they're receiving bullying messages or feeling left out from friend circles. Children and teens me also become more protective of their phones and computers because they do not want anyone to see the bullying that is happening online.
3. Unexplained emotional outbursts.
Bullying causes a lot of emotional distress, which can lead to crying, yelling, and other emotional outbursts that seem erratic or without reason. They may lash out in anger at family members because it's not safe to lash out at the people causing their distress. Getting to the root of the emotion is necessary to help your child learn to handle that distress.
The trick is to remain calm and not explain all emotional outbursts as the product of hormones. Teens have bad days like everyone else, but repeated emotional outbursts are calls for help in many cases. Your child or teen needs you to guide them toward resolving the problem rather than punishing them for the inability to control their emotions. There's a storm behind the anger or sadness, and you can help bring it to an end.
4. Changes in eating and sleeping patterns.
This is tricky with our current pandemic. Kids and teenagers may eat or sleep more or less because they are home more often and their daily routines have been erased but it may also be one of the warning signs of bullying.
In fact, they may also binge eat, stop eating, and struggle to sleep if they're the victim of bullying online or at school. The first step is to notice the behavior change. You can then start exploring the reasons behind that change.
5. Self-inflicted insults and / or harm
This is not only a sign of bullying but a sign of general emotional unrest. It may start with verbal insults and put downs. For instance, your child may make comments about their own weight, call themselves ugly, or make other statements that are self-degrading. Those comments may reflect your child's insecurities or what they're hearing from their bullies.
With ongoing or extreme bullying, it may go beyond self-criticism to self-harm. That includes any action that inflicts physical harm on oneself. Warning signs of bullying leading to self-harm may include unexplained bruises, cuts, scrapes, and other physical alterations. You may also notice your child wearing clothing that covers their arms, legs, or neck even though it's not appropriate to the weather or the temperature inside your home.
It's important to seek professional help immediately if you notice any signs of self-harm or suspect it may become an issue. Even self-criticism is enough to warrant intervention or at least actions designed to boost self-esteem and confidence.
If your child is the victim of bullying, the first step is to stop the trauma. It's sometimes difficult to determine the identity of online bullies, but you can change how your child interacts with other students on the platform in question. Reporting the bullying to school officials is also important if the bullying occurs during online or in-person educational time.
Talking with your child to ensure they understand you are not angry and want them to come to you with all bullying issues can also help. If more help is needed, telehealth counseling and even text counseling is easy to obtain today.