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Is my child being bullied?

As a parent or carer you may hope that your children feel they are able to talk to you if they are having problems, if they are in trouble or if they feel scared or miserable.


However if your child is being bullied they may find it harder or near impossible to talk to anyone, even someone who they have a good relationship with.


Being bullied, for a child or young person is difficult to deal with. It usually comes with feelings of shame and guilt. Common thoughts kids have when they are being bullied is that they must have done something to cause the bullying or, that they should be able to deal with the problem on their own.


The other problems kids have is reporting the bullying. This is even harder as there are many thoughts a young person may have and a stigma is also attached to telling someone. They may fear that the bullying will get worse if they tell someone.


Bullying has many signs which can be easily spotted even if the young person does not tell you, but some are also harder to spot. There are many physical, emotional and behavioural signs your child may show or develop if they are being bullied.


Keep reading to see a list of these signs. They may help you to support your child if they are having a problem with bullying, but don't feel they can talk about it. Hopefully by picking up on these, they may guide you to have the talk with your child to enable them to speak out.


​Is my child being bullied?

Physical Signs:

There are many physical signs that your child may show, that can tell you if your child may be getting bullied.


You may find that your child has injuries which they cannot or will not explain, such as cuts and bruises or pain in their arms and legs. One sign these are because of bullying may be noticeable patterns of the injuries. You may find for example that the injuries happen on a particular day of the week, in the same location or after some activities or classes.


If a young person has been hurt physically because of bullying they may try to hide these injuries. The first sign that something is not right might be if a child is in pain. They may try to hide this by covering up or holding a part of their body such as their arms, face, ribs, wrists or hands. The other signs could be that these areas are bruised or bleeding.


Sometimes these things do happen and they are not a sign of bullying, but just children playing, but if you are concerned or are uneasy about how the injury happened you should try and get your child to talk about it. It is also best to let them know that you won't be angry or upset with them if they do tell you.


Another sign to look out for is torn or damaged clothing / property. It could also be that the clothing is extremely dirty, graffitied on or blood stained. Just like before the child may not want to discuss or explain how it happened. Again these things also happen where they were damaged by accident, but just like injuries you should follow your instincts if you are not sure or are worried.


Sometimes these incidents can also occur if your child has been in a fight at school or during their leisure activities. If this is the case then it may be a good idea to involve your child's school or activity provider to find out what happened. As fighting is not something you should condone and should always be taken seriously. It is also important to note that just because a child has been in a fight, it may not be related to bullying.


One sign which can also be linked to bullying is bedwetting. This can be a symptom of the traumatic experience, and is found more common in younger children. If this does occur it's important that you support your child and not make them feel more ashamed by laughing or blaming them for doing it.


Other physical signs of bullying can be those of general ill health caused by stress.


These include:

  • Stomach aches

  • Headaches

  • Colds

  • Feeling too unwell to go to school or the activity


If these are a regular occurrence, or your child is regularly feeling sick and getting sent home from school because of feeling unwell, it should be taken seriously. You may think that they are doing it to just avoid going to school or the activity, but there could also be an underlying reason for them not wanting to attend.


Emotional Signs:


Just like physical signs there are also a range of emotional signs which could suggest that your child is being bullied.


One of the first signs to look for includes evident changes in personality or mood swings. If a young person is being bullied they could react to this by becoming unsociable or aggressive and may change between being energetic and unenergetic. A child or young person who is bullied outside of the home may have outbursts of anger when with close family or friends.


These changes could also be related to other issues which young people face, however as a parent you will know if your child is acting in a way which you know is out of character for them. If your child does seem more withdrawn or angrier than usual it may be a good idea to talk to them about it. There could be an underlying reason for this which is causing them to be angry or upset.


Other signs include:

  • Anxiety or Nervousness

  • Depression

  • Tearfulness

  • Lack of Confidence or Low Self-esteem

Behavioural Signs:


A young person who is being bullied may have mixed or confused feelings, and they can respond either by lashing out or being withdrawn. Most young people who are bullied show both of these behaviours.


A young person may become generally withdrawn if they are being bullied. This can include avoiding physical contact with friends and family members, being nervous or avoiding eye contact or shutting themselves away. This can sometimes be spotted if it is out of character.


A young person may also exclude themselves from group activities. Many reasons could be behind this, they could have fallen out with their friends, they may be getting bullied in that group or the group may have excluded them as part of a bigger issue of indirect bullying. A young person in this position is likely to feel bad or vulnerable, so it is important for you as a parent to encourage other activities to help build their confidence or self-esteem.


Other signs include the development of many conditions such as eating disorders, where the child or young person may comfort eat or not eat. One sign of this is a change in weight, your child may put on or lose a significant amount of weight. It is not uncommon for a young person being bullied to suffer from an eating disorder, this is due to a large amount of bullying being related to appearance. This could be size, shape or anything else which makes a young person stand out. If this is the case young people sometimes start to develop a negative self-image and become unhappy with their bodies.


Other signs include:

  • Alcohol or drug use

  • Self-harming

  • Becoming disruptive or challenging

  • Starting to bully or become abusive to others

  • Frequently losing possessions such as money or equipment

  • Being tired or hyperactive more often

  • Not wanting to go to school or truanting


The child or young person may also change the way they go to school - this may be to avoid the

people bullying them.


If your child shows these signs it may not mean that they are being bullied, however something may still be a problem or causing a difficulty for them. These are a signal to you as a parent to indicate that something may be wrong, so it's important that you support your child with any problems they may be facing.


These signs are also common to young people who are being abused by an adult. If this is the case and you either observe an incident or the child discloses the matter to you, it's important that you report the abuse. The abuse can be reported to the local police or the local safeguarding board.

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