Bullying can be a harrowing experience for children. The impact of being repeatedly victimised by someone who holds a seemingly arbitrary grudge can be deeply traumatic. Bullying can take many forms ranging from verbal abuse and name-calling, to spreading rumours and physical assaults. Here are some of the signs to look out for.
One of the most obvious but also most ambiguous signs is the avoidance of school. While occasionally trying to get out of a school day is perfectly normal for most kids, especially on cold winter mornings or the day of a dreaded test, this behaviour should raise some serious red flags if it becomes commonplace. Children who adhere to the normal sleeping hours (at least nine hours per night) yet still frequently struggle to get out of bed and try to avoid school may be experiencing a troubled time at school.
Frequent stomach-aches and headaches
Being bullied can cause severe stress and anxiety. One of the most common manifestations of this stress and anxiety is bouts of physical pain, particularly stomach-aches and headaches. While, once again, these are normal on occasion, a child who suffers from this on a seemingly chronic basis is cause for concern. Even if these are not stress and bullying related, they may indicate a medical issue and should definitely be addressed.
Outbursts of sadness, anxiety, anger, and violence
One of the tell-tale signs that a child is enduring some form of abuse is frequent outbursts of sadness, anxiety, anger, and violence. Children who are being victimised often experience intense negative emotions and try to regain their control by acting out against others. Naturally then it also follows that if your child is bullying others – siblings, classmates, cousins – there’s a good chance that they are being bullied as well. More crying than normal and a reluctance to be around people are examples of sadness and anxiety manifesting.
Torn clothing, damaged belongings, and physical marks
Another very obvious sign that a child is being bullied is when they start arriving home with torn clothing, damaged belongings and physical marks. These signs are usually a result of kids being physically assaulted or of a bully vandalising a child’s belongings to intimidate them. While this very physical form of bullying is what we most commonly associate with the act, it is by no means the only form it takes.
It is particularly important to keep a close eye out for these and other signs when your child transfers to a new region or school. Bullies target students without support systems. Some schools have a buddy-system where new children are paired with another child to help them integrate into their class and grade. Even when this is not the case, it might be worth meeting with your child’s class teacher ahead their first school day to discuss ways of trying to ensure the transition is smooth.
Bullying perpetuates a vicious cycle of trauma where the victim often gradually transforms into a predator over time. Whether you are able to nip it in the bud before it reaches this point, or find that being bullied has made a bully of your child, if you at all suspect that your child is being bullied it is imperative to take action immediately.