The school year has started and as a parent you have questions and concerns regarding your child. “Do they like their classes?” “Are they behaving in class?” “Are they making friends?” You do not want to ask the question, but it may be in the back of your mind, “Is my child being bullied?” There are different forms of bullying such as verbal, physical and non-verbal. You may be familiar with verbal bullying which is seen in the school as name-calling or making fun of someone. You may even remember from your time at school about physical bullying which may be seen as pushing someone in the hallway. You may not be aware of non-verbal bullying but it tends to have same effects as the others; this may include being ignored by others or excluding someone from a group activity.
As a parent, you may begin to see signs that your child is being bullied at school. Your child may show a loss of interest or be afraid to go to school. Your child may appear sad, moody, or depressed when coming home from school. The teacher may tell you that your child appears to be withdrawn or does not want to participate in class. Your child may complain of headaches, stomachaches, or other physical ailments. In other words, you child may be faking an illness to get out going to school, or these physical symptoms may be manifested due to stress. Parents are often unaware of bullying problems, and students feel that adult intervention is infrequent and fear that telling an adult will only bring more harassment from bullies.
If your child shows some of these signs, it does not necessarily mean that they are being bullied; but it is something worth exploring with your child. Talk with your child and talk with staff at school to learn more. Let your child know that you are concerned and you would like to help. You can get a discussion started using subtle questions. “Do you have any special friends at school this year? Who are they? Who do you hang out with?” “Are there any kids at school who really don’t like you? Why don’t you like them? Do they ever pick on your or leave you out of things?” You can also get a discussion started using more direct questions. “Are there any kids at school who pick on you or tease you in a mean way?” “Are there any kids at school who leave you out or exclude you on purpose?” If your child does not feel like talking about it, do not push the issue. Your child may be embarrassed and feel as though it is their fault for what is going on at school. As a parent, be supportive of your child; allow them to feel safe and protected with you.
It is important to also speak with your child’s teacher. Share your observations and concerns regarding your child and ask questions. “How does my child get along with other students in class?” With whom does my child spend free time?” “Have you noticed or suspect that my child is being bullied by other students?” Ask the teacher to talk with other adults who interact with your child at school; this may include the PE teacher, bus driver or music teacher. If the teacher is hard to contact or you are not satisfied with the conversation, make an appointment with the school counselor to discuss your concerns.
If you believe your child is being bullied, take quick action! Bullying can have serious effects on your child.
Douglas Plaeger MA, LPC