Bullies: Helping Your Child Cope
Bullying can happen in school, on the playground, and places where adults aren't around.
Now bullying can even happen through texting or online through social media sites,
apps, and gaming platforms. This is called cyberbullying. Bullying is intentional
tormenting that can be physical, verbal, social, or psychological. Hitting, shoving,
threatening, shunning, and spreading rumors can all be forms of bullying. Generally,
children who are being bullied are either weaker or smaller. Kids at higher risk of
bullying include those with disabilities or other special healthcare needs and those
who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. Kids who are bullied can become depressed,
develop low self-esteem, avoid school, feel physically ill, and even think about killing
What to look for
There are few things as disturbing as finding out your child is being bullied. Other
than seeing signs of physical harm like cuts or bruises, it may be hard to know about
bullying unless your child tells you or you ask. That's why it's a good idea to bring
up the subject, even if you don't think anything is wrong. Also, let your children
know how important it is to tell an adult if they have been bullied. Or to tell an
adult if they have seen any other kids being bullied.
Changes in your child's normal behavior may be warning signs of bullying. Signs to
look for include:
Feelings of helplessness or decreased self-esteem
Inability to sleep well or frequent nightmares
Changes in eating habits, such as loss of appetite, suddenly skipping meals, or binge
Frequent headaches or stomachaches, feeling sick, or faking sickness
Declining grades, loss of interest in schoolwork, or not wanting to go to school
Lost or damaged clothing, books, or electronics
Wanting to avoid normal routines, such as taking the school bus
Sudden loss of friends or avoiding social situations
Self-destructive behaviors such as running away from home, harming themselves, or
talking about suicide
How to help your child
The first thing you need to do is control your own emotions. One of the reasons kids
don't tell parents about bullying is because they are afraid of their parents’ reaction.
Stay calm, offer support, and tell your child that you are going to help.
Never ignore bullying, and never tell your child to tough it out or fight back. Fighting
back is almost always a bad idea. Kids who fight get hurt, and both kids may get in
Here are safe tips for helping your child:
Reassure your child. Make sure your child knows that they are not to blame and should not be ashamed. Praise
the courage it took to come forward and tell you about the problem.
Learn the facts. Get all the information you can about the bullying. This includes who is involved,
how often it happens, and where it takes place.
Let the correct authorities know. Don’t confront the bully's parents on your own. Leave that to school or other officials.
Get police help, medical attention, or both. Immediately get help if a weapon is involved, there are threats of physical injury,
there are threats of hate-motivated violence, there is bodily harm or sexual abuse,
or there is any accusation of an illegal act.
Encourage safe activities and friendships. You may want to ask your child's teacher for advice on participating in healthy activities
such as the arts, clubs, or athletics.
Have a safety plan. Talk about locations, groups of kids, and activities to avoid. Make sure your child
uses the buddy system when at risk. Discuss where to go and whom to ask for help in
case of an incident.
Bullying is a common problem for many kids, but as kids start to learn that bullying
is never cool and that adults need to know about any acts of bullying, the situation
should get better. Learn about your state’s bullying laws. If you have tried all the
standard ways to prevent bullying and still fear for your child's safety, you may
need to contact legal authorities.
Finally, remember that many kids become bullies because they learn bullying at home.
Children who are exposed to anger, shame, and violence are at risk of becoming bullies.
You don't want your child to be bullied and you certainly don't want your child to
be a bully. Make your home environment safe and supportive.