How to tell if your child is being bullied

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Most children grow up in a happy household and are the apple of their parents’ eyes. Any potential bullying by siblings and other children is likely to be immediately witnessed and dealt with. Once a child goes to school, however, it can be harder to keep track of any potential bullies, particularly if your child is reluctant to tell you. Here are some of the ways of telling whether your child is being bullied.

Unexplained wounds

Perhaps the most obvious sign is cuts and bruises that your child seems reluctant to discuss. Children are always falling over and scraping knees and elbows, but if the injuries seem to preclude this, then it may be worth investigating further. If your child cannot give a good explanation when lightly questioned, approach their teacher to see what they say and keep an eye on your child.

Erratic and out of the ordinary behaviour

Children’s behaviour can often seem erratic, depending on how tired they are and whether they’ve just eaten. However, you know your own child, and if you feel that their mood swings are out of the ordinary, then it is worth some gentle probing to see if anything is wrong. A reluctance to tell you may suggest that there could be a problem.

Suddenly withdrawn or clingy

Having been the centre of your world for so long, a bullied child is likely to be so shocked by another’s cruel behaviour that they undergo a big loss of confidence and withdraw into themselves. If your child was previously bubbly and suddenly becomes very quiet, wanting to spend time on their own, then keep an eye on them. The same goes if they are abnormally clingy.

Reluctant to go to school

Knowing that their bully could be waiting for them, your child is likely to want to avoid going to school. They may feign illness or want to take a different route to school. Suggest that you go with them to school and see what the reaction is – a younger child may be only too glad of your company, whereas an older one may be violently against it, for fear of being seen as overly protected.

Change of appetite

Distressed children can react by changing their eating habits. They may suddenly lose their appetite, or conversely, seem to be eating more than usual. If the latter is the case, then check that they are eating their lunch – it may be that the bully is targetting them for their lunch money or the contents of their lunch-box.

Poor progress at school

If your child suddenly seems to be having difficulties with their schoolwork, it could be that their distress is causing a lack of concentration. In this case, their teacher will be in a better position to tell you what they think is going on and to keep an eye out for any bullying during school time. You may be tempted to pressure your child into performing to a higher standard, but steer clear of this until you are sure there is no other reason.

Nightmares and bed-wetting

If the worry and distress of being bullied doesn’t come out in any other way, it will almost certainly come out while your child is in bed. If they suddenly exhibit difficulty with getting to sleep, start having nightmares or wet the bed, then this could be a sign that they are being bullied. Take care to not become annoyed with them – this could make the situation even more pronounced.

If your child is exhibiting any of the above behaviours or signs, then it is most certainly worth investigating further. Bullying can have a huge mental impact on a child that they carry through into adulthood and the sooner that it is brought to a halt, the sooner any damage done can be patched up.

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