Bullying is unfortunately very common for children today. Around 25 percent of children admit to being bullied, although only a small percentage of them let their parents know what is going on. Recognizing that your child may be the victim of a bully helps you work together to deal with the stress this creates and find a solution to the issue.

Difficulty Sleeping

Often the first hint you have that something is going wrong is when your child develops sleep issues. They may have trouble going to sleep or staying asleep, they may want to sleep with you, or they may begin to experience bad dreams.

Even the most stoic child doesn't have much control over what happens when they are asleep. They may hesitate to talk about the problem during the day, but the symptoms cannot be avoided at night.

little girl lying awake in bed


Avoiding Social Situations

Some children are more social than others, but if you notice a change, it likely indicates something is going on. If they want to skip birthday parties, decide not to play their favorite sports that year, or otherwise change their normal behavior, there may be a reason why. While it is normal for interests to change, if they suddenly want to spend more time at home, there may be something deeper going on.

young child sitting alone in his bedroom


A Drop in Grades

It is hard to focus when you are worried. If your child is being bullied at school, you may notice a sudden drop in grades. Anytime you notice a change in academic progress, there is a reason for concern. Rather than assume your child is not trying, get to the root of the issue. Whether it is bullying or something else, such as vision issues, this should be a red flag that prompts you to dig deeper.

little boy holding test paper with F grade


Feeling Anxious or Hopeless

Some kids are just more anxious by nature. However, the sudden development of anxious behavior is a reason for concern. The anxiety doesn't have to clearly relate to school or social situations to be ignited by bullying; it may be expressed as worrying about bad weather, the health of a family member, or some other, seemingly unrelated anxiety.

little girl sitting on window ledge looking sad


Noticeable Injuries or Damage to Belongings

Anytime your child comes home with visible injuries or damaged possessions, get to the bottom of what happened. Don't expect your child to willingly tell you. Many children are deeply ashamed of bullying and would rather take the blame for the damage by making up a story than admit they were being bullied.

little boy holding out a broken car toy


Appears Moody or Tearful

Again, some children are more emotional than others, so rather than comparing your youngster to others, keep an eye out for changes in their personality. Being bullied is stressful, and a child that is consistently feeling on edge may wear their emotions close to the surface. Becoming moody or tearful over things that would not normally bother them indicates something else is going on.

sad little girl hugging her mom


Develops Physical Symptoms

Your child may develop actual physical symptoms in response to bullying. While many parents may believe their child is faking to avoid the situation, stomach aches and headaches are common and very real responses to stress.

If you suspect your child is being bullied but they do not admit to it, talk to your pediatrician. A visit to diagnose their physical symptoms opens the door for your child to confide in the doctor. They may feel more comfortable doing this than talking about the issue with you. At the least, the exam could indicate another health issue.

little body with stomach ache


Negative Self-Talk

A child that is being bullied feels powerless. So much of childhood is spent feeling out of control anyway, so being bullied by a peer can be devastating. While other external controls — parents and teachers, for example — generally have the child's best interests at heart, the bully does not. The lack of control in this type of situation is very damaging to self-esteem. If they start saying they are dumb or otherwise talking poorly about themselves, it may be due to bullying.

little boy yelling at himself in a mirror


Fewer Friends

Childhood is rough, and if one child is being bullied, other children may stop being friends with them in an act of self-preservation: they do not want the bully's gaze to rest on them, so they stay out of the line of fire. If friends start disappearing from your child's life, it may be due to bullying; whatever the reason, it's important to try to find out what's going on.

little boy sitting alone at school while children run to play


What You Can Do

If your child lets you know they are being bullied, the best thing you can do is listen. Children are often embarrassed to admit the problem, and jumping in with anger or aggressiveness, even though isn't directed at them, may do more harm than good. If you threaten to talk to the bully, they may stop confiding in you for fear of making the situation worse.

Make sure your child knows that the bullying isn't their fault. Let them know you appreciate them trusting you with the information. Most bullying happens at school, so speak with the teacher or principal to let them know what is going on.

If the situation doesn't improve, speaking with the bully's parents may be your only option. Arrange for the school counselor or another neutral party to mediate the conversation.

concerned father talking with his young daughter


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This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.