Here's How to Tell If Your Child Is Being Bullied—and What to Do

We all think we'd be able to spot it if our child was being bullied, that our Mom radar would switch on and we'd surely know.

We hope our child would tell us. But it turns out that this isn’t the case.

A major study by the National Bullying Prevention Center has shown that for more than 67 percent of children who say they've been bullied did not report it.

That's 67 percent.

That means for more than half of all kids who have been bullied, Mom and Dad didn’t know.

There are a lot of reasons that kids don’t tell their parents—embarrassment, fear of being in trouble, fear of making a fuss, a concern their parents won’t believe them or won’t listen.

Some kids reported that they did tell their parents but the methods they were given to deal with the situation simply didn’t work.

So they resigned themselves to the bullying.

It’s heartbreaking.

It is up to us as parents to be vigilant in recognizing the signs of bullying in our children in the hope that we can stop it before it has serious effects.

An international authority on bullying, Ken Rigby, has given our sister site Mamamia some tips on what to watch out for when it comes to bullying.

1. Unexplainable injuries

There may be a simple explanation but if your child struggles to explain how that bruise, limp or bloody nose occurred, then it is worth investigating more.

2. Lost or destroyed clothing, books, electronics or jewelry

Every child I know loses stuff occasionally, but when it is repeated, unexplained or particularly valuable, it's time to not just dismiss it as a mistake.

3. Sudden changes in habits

Like...refusing to go to activities they previously loved, skipping meals, binge eating. It could, of course, just be that your son is sick of soccer practice. He could be tired—or he could be having issues with one of the other kids.

4. Unexplained illnesses, frequent headaches or tummy aches, feeling sick or even faking illness

My own son began to have tummy pains at every preschool drop off. I knew these pains were real, but they weren’t a virus. It was anxiety. After a further discussion with his teachers, I found the root of the anxiety was that he was being left out. He was lonely. He wasn’t being bullied, thankfully, but his illness was not something to be easily dismissed.

5. Difficulty sleeping or frequent nightmares

Lots of kids have trouble sleeping, but a sudden change in sleeping habits may be cause for concern. Watch out for bed-wetting and for your child crying out at night.

6. Sudden changes in attitude to school

Rigby says signs such as "fear of walking to or from school, a change of route to school, being afraid of riding on the school bus, asking to be driven to school, being unwilling to go to school" are key signs. Watch out for deterioration in schoolwork or coming home starving (because lunch money was taken). Keep an eye on your child asking for or stealing money (to pay the bully).

7. Sudden sadness

Emotional indicators can obviously be a sign of many problems, but the key ones to be on the look out for if you suspect bullying are "appearing upset, unhappy, lonely, tearful, distressed, becoming withdrawn and depressed. Also, suicidal thinking and unexpected mood swings."

8. Bullying siblings or younger kids

Bullied children can sometimes flip their role and become the bully.

9. Waiting to get home to use the bathroom

School bathrooms can be a hot spot for bullying.

While each of these can be a concern, Rigby cautions parents to take them in context: "Recognize that each one of the signs might indicate something quite other than bullying. The torn clothes may be explained away as incurred during a rough game, while the bruise as a blow from a ball at baseball practice."

Ken Rigby gives further assistance here

This post originally appeared on Mamamia, Spring.St's Australian sister site. You can read it here.