How to talk to your child if you think they are being bullied

Created by http//www.beatbullying.org  All parents and carers hope that the children for whom they care are able to talk to them if they are having problems, if they are in trouble or if something is making them scared or miserable. However, children and young people often find it impossible to talk to anyone when bullying occurs, even a parent or carer with whom they have a good relationship.

Bullying is a very difficult subject for young people and is deeply associated with feelings of guilt and shame. Kids that are bullied often feel that they must have done something to cause it or that they should be able to handle the problem themselves (this is especially true with older children). Also, in most schools and youth groups there is a stigma attached to reporting the bullying to any adult.

Some of the effects of bullying are easy to spot even without being told that bullying is taking place, but others are less obvious. Here are some lists of physical, emotional and behavioural clues that you may see in your child if he/she is being bullied. They may help you to support your child if he/she is having a problem with bullying but has not yet been able to talk to you about it. By picking up on these clues, you can then raise the subject of bullying with your child.

Physical signs that your child is being bullied• Injuries that a child cannot or will not give a convincing explanation for (e.g. cuts and bruises, pain in arms and legs), particularly if he/she is often injured and if there seems to be a pattern of when the injuries happen, e.g. on particular days of the week, after particular activities/classes.

• Young people who have been physically hurt because of bullying may want to hide their injuries, so your first sign that something is wrong might be if a child seems to be in pain, has difficulty walking, is holding a part of his/her body (ribs/arm/hand/wrist/face) or is bleeding/bruised.• Obviously (to many a parent and carer’s despair!) most kids are prone to getting scraped and bruised in the normal run of playing with their friends, but if you feel uneasy about how a particular injury happened you should follow your instincts and try to get your child to talk to you about it. Assure them that you will not be angry or upset with them.

• Torn or damaged clothing (for example, clothing that is extremely dirty, blood-stained or graffitied on). Again, the child may be unable or unwilling to explain how the clothes were damaged.• As with scrapes and bruises, kids clothing is often damaged by accident, but again you should follow your instinct if you are worried.

• Bear in mind that children do get into fights during their school and leisure activities, and that injuries and torn and damaged clothing can be a result of this. Obviously, fighting is not something that you should condone and should always be taken seriously – there may be a need to involve your child’s school/youth group in finding out what happened. But be aware that a fight between two young people is not necessarily related to bullying.• Children who are being bullied often start showing general symptoms of ill health due to stress or complaining of regular stomach aches, headaches, colds, feeling too unwell to go to school/PRU/club. If your child is regularly complaining of aches, pains and feeling sick or is regularly sent home from school early due to feeling unwell you should always take this seriously, even if you suspect that she/he is trying to get out of going to school or youth club. She/he may have a very good reason for not wanting to go.

• Bedwetting – wetting the bed at night can be a symptom of the trauma that bullying induces, particularly in younger children. If your child starts having this problem, be aware that bullying could be behind it. It’s very important that you don’t make your child feel even more ashamed by blaming or laughing at him/her if he/she is bedwetting.