Warning signs of bullying

If your child is being bullied, he or she might remain quiet out of fear, shame or embarrassment. Be on the lookout for these warning signs:

  • Lost or destroyed clothing, electronics or other personal belongings
  • Sudden loss of friends or avoidance of social situations
  • Poor school performance or reluctance to go to school
  • Headaches, stomachaches or other physical complaints
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Distress after spending time online or on his or her phone
  • Feelings of helplessness or low self-esteem
  • Self-destructive behavior, such as running away from home

What to do if your child is being bullied

If you suspect that your child is being bullied, take the situation seriously:

  • Encourage your child to share his or her concerns. Remain calm, listen in a loving manner and support your child's feelings. Express understanding and concern. Remind your child that he or she isn't to blame for being bullied.
  • Learn about the situation. Ask your child to describe how and when the bullying occurs and who is involved. Find out what your child has done to try to stop the bullying, as well as what has or hasn't worked. Ask what can be done to help him or her feel safe.
  • Teach your child how to respond. Don't promote retaliation or fighting back against a bully. Instead, your child might try telling the bully to leave him or her alone, walking away to avoid the bully, ignoring the bully, or asking a teacher, coach or other adult for help. Suggest sticking with friends wherever the bullying seems to happen. Likewise, tell your child not to respond to cyberbullying. If possible, use software to block the cyberbully.
  • Talk to your child about technology. Make sure you know how your child is using the Internet, social media platforms, or his or her phone to interact with others. If your child is being cyberbullied, don't automatically take away electronic privileges. Children might be reluctant to report bullying for fear of having their cellphone or Internet privileges taken away. Your actions could prevent your child from telling you about a future incident.
  • Boost your child's self-confidence. Encourage your child to build friendships and get involved in activities that emphasize his or her strengths and talents.

Responding to bullying

If your child admits being bullied, take action. For example:

  • Record the details. Write down the details — the date, who was involved and what specifically happened. Save screenshots, emails and texts. Record the facts as objectively as possible.
  • Contact appropriate authorities. Seek help from your child's principal, teacher or the school guidance counselor. Report cyberbullying to Web and cellphone service providers or websites. If your child has been physically attacked or otherwise threatened with harm, talk to school officials and call the police.
  • Explain your concerns in a matter-of-fact way. Instead of laying blame, ask for help to solve the bullying problem. Keep notes on these meetings. Keep in contact with school officials. If the bullying continues, be persistent.
  • Ask for a copy of the school's policy on bullying. Find out how bullying is addressed in the school's curriculum, as well as how staff members are obligated to respond to known or suspected bullying.

If your child has been injured or traumatized by continued bullying consult a mental health provider. You might also consider talking to an attorney. Taking legal action to disrupt a culture of bullying can make your community safer for all children.

Aug. 23, 2013 See more In-depth