Is my child being bullied? Why won’t they talk about it?  What are the signs?

Submitted by Dru Ahlborg, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Bullying Recovery Resource Center 

Parenting isn’t easy and there are many things to juggle especially as our children get older. As caregivers we may be managing their sporting teams, recitals, school, hangouts and play dates, homework and our children’s emotional and physical well-being. How do we know when things aren’t going okay for our kiddos? Many children hit an age where they speak less to their parents, and it can become more challenging to keep all the balls in the air. When it comes to bullying, many children don’t want to speak about it at all especially if they are the target of bullying.

Why Children Don’t Talk About Being Bullied: 

Many children won’t tell anyone that they are being bullied. The National Center for Educational Statistics state that one out of every five students report being bullied. The same survey also tells us that only 46% of bullied students report the incident to an adult. Why don’t our kids feel it is necessary to tell someone they have been a target of bullying? 

We speak to the parents we serve at BRRC that the job of a school-aged child is to go to school and succeed in that endeavor. Going to school involves not only academic success, but also socializing and getting along with others. Being a target of bullying can equal to failing in the eyes of a child. We know this isn’t true and that no child ever deserves to be bullied. Here are several reasons why a child may not talk about what is really happening at school:

Shame and embarrassment. Being a target of bullying can cause a child to feel powerless or weak. This can create feelings of shame and embarrassment. Often bullying involves something that a child is sensitive about and reporting it can feel worse than the actual bullying act. Children are bullied because of the way they look, their race, their disability and their sexual or gender expression.

Fear of retaliation. Children fear that reporting a bully will not make a difference and/or they will be subjected to more bullying because of reporting it.

Concern about being believed. Some children who engage in bullying behavior are youth that teachers and parents would least suspect. High-status social bullies are very adept at charming the adults in charge and pick their targets with great care.

Failure to recognize bullying. Sometimes bullying isn’t easy to witness, especially relational bullying. Spreading rumors, ostracizing others, taunting and shunning are all types of bullying that are more subtle and sometimes less easy to label as such.

Warning Signs of Bullying:

As parents, we know our kids better than anyone else. It is important to keep an eye out for changes in behaviors. Barbara Coloroso, BRRC board member and parenting expert offers an informative list of possible signs your child may be experiencing bullying:

  • Shows an abrupt lack of interest in school or a refusal to go to school
  • Takes an unusual route to school
  • A drop in grades
  • Withdraws from family or school activities
  • Wants to be left alone
  • Avoids the lunchroom or eats alone
  • Is sad, angry, sullen or scared after receiving a call, text, email or social media message
  • Engages in actions out of character
  • Uses derogatory or demeaning language when speaking about peers
  • Stops talking about their peers or day to day activities
  • Disheveled, torn or missing clothing without explanation
  • Frequent stomachaches, headaches or panic attacks
  • Unable to sleep or sleeps too much
  • Creates art that depicts severe emotional distress, turmoil or violence

It is important to be alert to the frequency, duration and intensity of any changes.

If you suspect your child is being bullied, take the time to talk with them with no interruptions. Ask open-ended questions. If they are being bullied, report it to school officials immediately. If the school does not act or takes action that further hurts your child, please reach out to Bullying Recovery Resource Center. We can answer any questions and help you understand your rights and how to stop the bullying. We stop bullying today to begin recovery tomorrow.