Bullying has become a widely reported issue in many schools in recent years. You may be wondering if your own teenager has become a victim of bullying. Often teenagers aren’t willing to outright offer that information to you, so here are some things to look for if you suspect your teen is being bullied.
One of the most obvious signs that your teenager is possibly being bullied is a sudden avoidance of school or other activities. A teen may try to avoid the bully by being absent from their presence. Real stress and anxiety from being bullied may cause your child real physical symptoms such as stomach aches, but you may also find them making up physical symptoms in an attempt to stay home. If your child is suddenly and frequently ill with no explanation, a bully may be the cause. Your teen may also just decide one day to quit the baseball team or want to skip out on choral practice with no previous signs of wanting to quit. If your child is suddenly avoiding school and activities for any reason it is best to start asking questions.
You may notice one day that your teen has changed their appearance. A change in appearance doesn’t always mean they are being a victim of bullying, but if the change is unexpected and your teen does not seem enthusiastic about it, it may be an attempt to make themselves less of a target. If your teen feels like they’ve been under attack for their appearance they may suddenly avoid wearing their favorite styles, drastically change their hair or want to lose or gain weight when it has never been of interest to them before to do so. If you suspect their desire to change their appearance is coming from somewhere other than themselves, it is best to find out why they feel the need to change.
Teenagers are good at giving subtle hints when they want you to know something but don’t want to come right out and say it. Your teen may hint around that they are being bullied in hopes that you will notice without them having to feel like they “tattled” on the person. If you notice your teen discussing bullying in general, dig deeper. They may also mention some unkind comments that were made to them and try to pass it off as not really being a big deal.
Lastly, if your teen is withdrawing or you notice a change in their behavior, it is always a good idea to find out why. They may become upset, emotional or withdrawn if they are being bullied.
Most schools have a strict anti-bullying policy. Your teenager should be equipped for handling bullying by being reminded to engage with the bully as little as possible, to be assertive in telling the person to stop, and they should be secure with the knowledge that they will get the support they need from you and from the school when they seek help.