Bullying is no trivial matter. Each month in the U.S. alone, over 28,000 kids are teased, ostracized or beaten up by their peers. And parents may not even be aware that it’s happening!

Many kids will avoid reporting a bully because they have either been threatened not to tell anyone, or else they feel ashamed for not being able to handle the situation themselves.

Is your child a victim of bullying? Look for the following signs – especially if they are of recent onset (NOTE: these are not definitive indicators of bullying, but rather signs that something may be wrong):

•Reluctance to go to school for no valid reason
•Complaints of feeling sick; frequent visits to the nurse’s office
•Sudden drop in grades
•Coming home hungry (because bullies have taken lunch money or harassed child in the lunchroom)
• Frequently arriving home with clothing or possessions destroyed or missing
• Nightmares, bedwetting, difficulty sleeping
• Sudden fear of meeting new people, trying new things or exploring new places
• Refusing to leave home
• Waiting to get home to use the bathroom
• Acting nervous when another child approaches
• Increased anger or resentment with no obvious cause
• Making remarks about feeling lonely
• Difficulty making friends
• Reluctance to defend oneself when teased or criticized
• Dramatic change in style of dressing
• Physical marks - bruises, cuts, etc.

If your child exhibits any of these signs, consider them clues for further inquiry. The problem may be bullying, or it may be something else.

What you can do to help:

If you do determine that your child is a victim of bullies, here are some tips:

1. Listen to your child. Take all complaints seriously, and listen supportively. By the time your child tells you about being bullied, the problem has likely been going on for some time.

2. Take action yourself:
• If the bullying is occurring at school, report it to the principal, giving as much specific detail as you can.
• Contact the parents of the youngster whom your child identifies as a bully. Don’t assume that the parents will dismiss your call. Most parents are unaware that their child is bullying others, and, upon hearing the news, do want the bullying to stop.
• Many schools now have bully-prevention and intervention programs, where faculty and staff have been trained to manage bullying on campus. Check with your school district to see if they have such a program.

3. Encourage your child to take action
• Urge your child to report future incidences of bullying, regardless of any threats that the bully might make.
• Teach your child to address the bully in a self-assured, controlled manner. Role-play with your child assertiveness skills such as walking with confidence, looking someone in the eye, and saying authoritatively, “Stop that right now.”

4. What not to do
• Don’t encourage your child to “hit him back.” That will make things much worse, especially if the bully intimidates others into ganging up on your child.
• Don’t advise your child to avoid making the bully mad. That will only increase your child’s anxiety, and not prevent the bullying. Most bullying attacks are unprovoked, such that the bully will invent an excuse if necessary.

If the above steps don’t seem to work within a few weeks, consult a psychologist for professional help immediately, before things get worse.

Author's Bio: 

Pauline Wallin, Ph.D. is a psychologist and life coach in Camp Hill, PA, with over 30 years' experience, and author of "Taming Your Inner Brat: A Guide for Transforming Self-defeating Behavior."

Contact Dr. Wallin to learn how coaching (by phone) for yourself can help you help your child.
drwallin.com email: drwallin@drwallin.com