School Age Children and Bullying: Spotting the Warning Signs of Bullying

While school is supposed to be a safe place designed for children to learn and make friends, bullying is a reality and can have a major emotional and psychological impact on kids. While physical bullying is easier to recognize because it leaves your child with physical injuries, there are other warning signs of bullying that can help you identify whether or not your child is a victim of bullying in school, so that you take the necessary actions to ensure that bullying ends.

Some Common Warning Signs of Bullying in Kids

There are a variety of signs to look for if you suspect that your children are victims of bullying at school:

  • Change in Behavior: Changes in the behavior and mood of schoolage children are often the most important indicators that your child is a victim of a school bully. Such changes can include decreased confidence, anxiety, unusual shyness, stammering and being extremely withdrawn around others. However, some victims of a bully become aggressive themselves, and often bully others, particularly younger children
  • Change in Usual Route to School: If your child expresses anxiety or fear about his usual route to school, then it may well be a warning sign of bullying. For example, your child may be scared to walk to and from school like she usually does. Or if your child usually takes the bus to school, she may ask you to drive her. These are all potential signs of bullying in school, as the child associates school with feelings of dread.
  • Decreased School Performance: Similarly, if your child is a victim of bullying at school, a negative change in her school performance is one of the signs of bullying. If, for instance, your child is strong at math but then begins doing poorly on his math tests, you should consider the possibility that your child is being bullied. Decreased school performance is one of the effects of bullying because kids who are bullied at school cultivate a fear and hatred of school, which affects their academic performance
  • Possessions Go Missing or Are Damaged: If you begin to notice that your children are routinely losing their possessions or that their possessions are regularly becoming damaged while at school, this could be a result of their being a victim of a school bully. For example, your child might constantly ask for lunch money. Or, she may come home with damage done to her clothes or books; all are potential signs of bullying.
  • Decreased Appetite: A loss of appetite in kids is one of the most common symptoms of bullying. If your child pushes his food around on his plate and shuns food that he previously enjoyed eating, you should consider this as a potential sign that he is being bullied at school.
  • Having Nightmares: Often times victims of children bullying will experience recurrent nightmares about their bullying experiences. Schoolage bullying victims might also redevelop fears they had associated with bedtime when they were younger, such as being scared of the dark. This is because children bullying victims feel most vulnerable at night time, which reminds them of the helplessness they feel when they are being bullied at school.
  • Physical Signs: Warning signs of physical bullying include unexplained cuts, bruises and scars. If your child is constantly coming home from school with such physical injuries, it is a likely indication that your child is a victim of a school bully.
  • Suicide Threat or Suicide Attempt: The most serious of bullying warning signs is when a child threatens suicide or actually attempts to end his life. Such an action can be a result of extreme bullying at school, and is usually a result of both physical bullying and psychological bullying. If your child talks about death or ending her life, or appears depressed, speak to your health care provider or a child psychologist immediately.

What Do I Do if I Think My Child is Being Bullied?

If you notice one or more of above the bullying symptoms and signs, you should take prompt action. While these signs might be a symptom of another problem, a child’s exposure to prolonged or excessive bullying can have major psychological, emotional and physical effects on a child.

Some steps you can take if you suspect your child is a victim of bullying at school include contacting your child’s school and getting in touch with your child’s principal or teacher. You should also consider talking to your child’s doctor, a psychologist or other health care professionals if you suspect the bullying is extremely serious, or if your child shows extreme changes in behavior or demonstrates signs of depression and suicidal thoughts or behavior.

Want to know how to try and stop bullying at school before it starts? Read our article on bullying prevention.