Updated on 05/20/24

Between 1 in 4 and 1 in 3 students in the United States say they have been bullied at school. Most bullying happens in middle school and the most common types are verbal and social bullying. The torment that takes place is not by just the “mean girls” at school. It can be from friends, coaches and as subtle as teasing by family members. Often times, family members and friends are not even aware they are bullying their loved ones but rather think they are just teasing by making hurtful remarks about another individual’s body image. In the past, one could escape bullying by going home, being with friends, extracurricular activities, and church groups. Today, children and adolescents still have all of those ways to escape the bullying; however, there are now cell phones and other forms of media where one can be targeted anonymously if not 24 hours a day, a term known as cyber bullying.  Whether a child is being called names on the playground, being physically attacked in the neighborhood park or being threatened on online platforms, it can lead to long-term devastating effects. Studies have shown that 160,000 children skip school every day because they fear being attacked or intimidated by other students. Another trouble fact is that most children do not tell their parents they are being bullied.

Warning signs your child is being bullied

Many kids choose not to tell their parents that they are being bullied because they may feel embarrassed, or they may be scared that their parents will confront the bully and make things worse or that their parents won’t believe them. Your child may not feel comfortable telling you about his or her pain for many reasons, however if you are aware of the signs associated with bullying, you can take action to help your child work through their emotions and trauma and also work to prevent potential bullying in your home.

  • Unexplained physical marks, cuts, bruises and scrapes
  • Damaged or lost clothing, toys or other belongings with no explanation
  • No longer desires to attend school or social events
  • Fear of riding the bus to school or walking to school
  • Fear of being left alone.
  • Suddenly sullen, withdrawn, evasive; remarks about feeling lonely
  • A marked change in typical behavior or personality
  • Your child appears sad, moody, angry, anxious or depressed
  • Your child has frequent headaches and stomachaches
  • Frequently visits the school nurse’s office.
  • Difficulty sleeping, nightmares, cries self to sleep, bed wetting
  • Change in eating habits
  • Arrives home starving as many bullies will steal food or lunch money
  • Begins to bully siblings or younger kids and children.
  • Afraid to use public bathrooms as bullying often occurs in these locations
  • Academic decline

How to talk to your child about bullying

Silence can be deadly. You may think nothing is wrong because your child is not verbalizing their emotions and thoughts however you may be noticing some of the above warning signs. If you have a feeling that your child is being bullied, it is important to ask your child questions, in a supportive manner. Review the warning signs associated with bullying then ask direct questions. Some examples include the following:

  • “You are always hungry, did you eat your lunch today?”
  • “I noticed your jacket is missing, did someone take it?”
  • “Your backpack is ripped, did someone do that to you”?

If your child will still not talk to you, despite you offering support and asking questions then you may want to arrange a meeting with a trusted adult that knows your child. This may include a conference with your child’s teacher or coach or scheduling a phone conversation with parents of your child’s best friend. The trick is to figure out if your child is bullied and then where and when it is happening so you can get the right help for your child.

Related Articles from Discovery Mood & Anxiety Program