How to tell if your child is being bullied and how you can help

The more things change, the more they say the same. I know we've heard this phrase ad nauseum, but it is true that there are some things that never change. Unfortunately, one of these things is the presence of bullies in school.

It seems that anyone who is 'different' is a potential target for bullies. I know I was! But even if your child isn't particularly 'odd', s/he could still be a victim of bullying. It can be hard to tell if your child is being bullied because they tend not to want to talk about it. Even so, there are warning signs to look for.

Children who are being bullied at school may:
  • Try to avoid going to school when they used to enjoy it
  • Show fear or anxiety about going to school or participating in activities
  • Have unexplained bruises or cuts
  • Have a much higher amount of anxiety in general
  • Be withdrawn, moody or depressed
  • Have a marked drop in grades
  • Loss of interest in school activities or friends

Please note the mention of 'changes'. It can be kind of hard to tell these things apart from 'normal teenage angst', but usually it is the 'major change' that shows a problem.

Also, bullying can take different forms. In addition to the usual 'physical or threats of physical' violence, there can be teasing, gossiping or social isolation. The latter two tend to take place among girls more often than boys. The information age has brought on a new form called 'cyberbullying', which consists of using things such as the internet and text messaging to spread rumors or harass people.

If it turns out that your child is being bullied, there are several things you can do to help. One thing that really helps is to let your child know s/he is not alone; if you were bullied, talk about it. If other trusted adults or older teens were bullied, have your child talk to them. Even if you don't give advice, just the fact that your child now has someone to talk to about these things can make a huge difference.

The old advice of 'just walk away' or 'don't fight back' can still hold true today. This doesn't mean that your child has to roll over and take it, but there are other ways s/he can stand up to a bully without having to get into a physical fight that may make things worse. Using humor, intelligent comebacks or simply saying, 'Leave me alone!' can be more effective than hitting any day. Encouraging your child in other ways (taking a self-defense class, academics, etc) can help build self-esteem and thus more 'nerve' when dealing with the bully. Talking to school officials might also help.

The school years can be some of the best or the worst years of your child's life. If your child is being bullied, teaching him/her to deal with it properly can go a long way. Good luck!


  1. These are all very good methods I would say. This is where my husband and I disagree though, which of course is a problem. He tells our kids not to take crap from anybody. And if somebody hits them, to stand up for themselves and hit them back. I guess that always worked for him.

  2. It probably *did* work for him-in a different time and generation. My husband says the same thing, but I think that's something boys are taught more than girls. And maybe it still works on some level, but what if the bullying isn't physical? For girls, a lot of it isn't. I was bullied in the 'social isolation' or 'two-faced gossip' way. There was no hitting be honest, I think that might have been easier! Either way, I tell my kids not to hit back or 'get back at' the person so much as stand up for themselves.

  3. Every situation may be different, but violence rarely solves much. There is no problem with standing up for yourself; though at times that may involve fighting back. It really depends on the situation I would say.