Bullying is an insidious situation one that both the bully and the victim often desperately hope to keep a secret.
Bullies obviously don’t want their cover blown, but many victims also cover up the truth because they are embarrassed, confused or scared that bullying will increase if they turn in their tormentors.
Even if you ask your child upfront if they are being bullied it is not always guaranteed that they will answer honestly.
Signs of a Teen Being Bullied
If you fear that your teen is being bullied, be sure that you look for warning signs that might hint at what is really going on. Common signs that a teen is being bullied include:
- Uncommon bristling at family or friends’ teasing.
- Depression and/or mood swings.
- Differences in sleep patterns such as sleeping all the time or insomnia.
- A change in eating patterns, such as comfort eating or eating less than usual.
- Frequent headaches or stomach aches.
- Requests for time off school due to minor or imaginary illnesses.
- Sullenness or silence.
- Seeming frequently on edge or intimidated.
- A desire for time alone.
- Shunning social situations with teens of a similar age.
- A sudden dislike of school, specific classes or school-related activities.
- A change in the transportation methods a teen uses to get to or from school.
- A change in the route that the teen takes took or from school.
- “Loss” of possessions such as mobile phones, mp3 players, calculators or other more expensive items.
- “Loss” of pocket money or money for school trips, supplies, etc.
- Experiences more cuts, scrapes or bruises than normal.
- More tears or rips in clothing, backpacks, or books than normal.
- Frequent mood changes after reading text messages, instant messages or emails.
- Phone calls, letters or emails from people you do not know or names you do not recognise.
- Unexplained absences from school or activities.
- Seeming more aggressive than normal, particularly with smaller, younger or weaker siblings or friends.
- Reports from teachers that (s) he is not performing as normal in schoolwork.
- Reports from school administrators that (s) he is acting up at school.
Offering Help If Your Teen Is Being Bullied
Many teens will shun outright offers of help to fight bullying because they do not want to admit to being bullied.
Teens might be embarrassed that they are perceived as weak or a victim, or they may be afraid that a bully will retaliate if they tell someone about the abuse.
There are many ways that parents can help their teens fight bullying, including:
- Discussing the situation with teachers or school administrators.
- Reviewing, or drafting, a school policy on bullying.
- Encouraging teens to continue with activities that they enjoy.
- Helping teens find alternate solutions to problems (routes to school, etc.)
- Allowing teens to use you as an excuse (for example, “my Mum/Dad wouldn’t let me bring my mp3 player to school anymore”.)
- Loving your teen, and remaining calm as you hear more about the situation. Your own anger won’t help anyone.
Unfortunately, bullying is a common phenomenon in many UK schools today. If you suspect your teen is being bullied, don’t be afraid to confront the situation head-on.
Show your teen that you are on his/her side and that you love him/her no matter what, and emphasise that anyone who doesn’t feel the same is the one with the problem, not him/her.