When children are being bullied by peers, it can be difficult to know as a mom what to do. A million thoughts and questions may be racing through your head: How should I intervene? What should I say? How do I approach the school? To address concerns such as these, here is a quick guide to the signs and effects of bullying, as well as how moms can help.
Recognizing the Signs of Bullying
Bullying typically looks different in each case, and unless there are visible signs or a child has communicated there is a problem, it may not always be clear there’s something wrong. However, there are certain signs that a mom can be on the lookout for as her children journey through school.
Common signs a mom may observe in her bullied child include:
- Changes in mood/moodiness
- Becoming upset easily
- Seeming anxious or depressed
- Disrupted sleep
- Social withdrawal
- Not eating or overeating
- Stomach aches
- Unexplained scratches or bruising
- Falling grades
- Avoidance of certain situations and places (like the school bathroom or bus stop)
These cues are not exclusive to bullying and may indicate something else is wrong. To find out what is behind these changes, it’s essential to open up the lines of communication. Doing so involves asking questions, which can be tricky at times. One way to bring up the issue is to use a bullying situation on TV to ask what the child thinks of it, what he or she would do in that situation and what emotions are present when discussing it.
The Effects of Bullying
The way in which a child is bullied can take many forms. It could be physical assaults, verbal attacks, psychological harassment through social exclusion, spreading rumors and more. As every case of bullying differs, so too do the effects. There may be short-term effects like those mentioned above such as sleep issues, social isolation and psychological problems.
With severe cases, it can leave deep emotional scars and even serious injury leading to long-term consequences. These can include chronic depression, anxiety disorders, relationship issues in adulthood and even employment difficulties, as formative social skills and scholastic performance can be impacted by victimization.
Another life-long effect is the possibility of an online footprint of the abuse. With the ease of access to victims as well as a wider audience, bullies often turn to social media to torment. They may also send text messages, emails and other exchanges outside of school hours intended to be hurtful and aggressive. Known as cyberbullying, this form can be particularly harmful to a child’s developing psyche and evidence of it can live on the Internet forever.
What Moms Can Do to Help
A great place to start is before the bullying even begins with preventative measures. While it isn’t up to kids to prevent their own mistreatment, there are ways to prepare for the possibility. One way is to have a plan in place to address it and ways to stop it from escalating. This plan could include a list of responses to someone who is acting aggressive that are direct, but not antagonistic. The key to these phrases is that they aren’t put-downs, because such remarks might aggravate a bully further.
Part of preparing these phrases is role-playing. By acting out “what if” scenarios and practicing different responses using a firm, strong voice, children can feel empowered and more self-assured when handling troublesome situations. While on the topic, be sure to encourage kids to be open about the things they see at school, whether it’s themselves or someone else being bullied. Showing that you take the issue seriously can help your kids feel more comfortable with sharing. It’s also a great time to promote positive body language and other self-esteem practices.
Lastly, it’s up to parents to stay informed – not only on what’s going on in their child’s life but about the anti-bullying programs and policies in place. These can be at the school, in the community or in the laws of the state. If there are serious concerns regarding a child’s safety, it may be necessary to contact legal authorities.
Proactive Steps Going Forward
Despite everything a mom does to prepare her little ones for life outside of the nest, there’s no controlling each encounter. When bullying becomes a problem in your child’s life, remember to be understanding, listen empathetically and report the issue to the school. With these tactics, your child won’t have to go through bullying alone.
For more advice on helping a bullied child, please see the accompanying resource.
Author bio: Kids Car Donations is a national organization that accepts vehicle donations to better the lives of children. The organization partners with a number of well-known nonprofits serving children and teens who are confronted with physical, mental and emotional challenges to provide the care they need.