Whether in the schoolyard, classroom, or online, children can be very hurtful to each other. Often, the stronger, more self-confident children pick out a single peer or group of peers to attack systematically and over a long period of time. This is known as bullying. Such bullying attacks range from verbal injury to sophisticated psychological terror to brute force.
But no matter to what extent a child is bullied, one thing is certain: Being ostracized and specifically hurt hurts and can have an enormous impact on the psyche. Self-esteem drops, and with it the strength and desire to defend oneself against the bullies. Parents therefore rarely notice directly when their child is being bullied. If they learn about the psychological pressure their child is under, both mother and father are usually overwhelmed. Especially when the children are older, they cannot simply take the bullying child or his or her parents to the task. Often the situation seems hopeless. However, the first step is already taken when parents recognize and understand their children’s situation.
You know that your child is being bullied or do you suspect it? We’ll explain how you can tell that your child is having trouble with bullying and how to deal with it.
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These Signs Indicate That Your Child Is Being Bullied
Most children who are struggling with bullying don’t dare talk about it. They are ashamed of their situation or even afraid to tell on the bullies. Therefore, the only effective solution seems to them to withdraw into themselves. In this way, they do not stand out and give the bullies no reason to make fun of them, the children think. So although they are clearly in the victim role, they struggle with feelings of guilt and shame. They often even feel responsible for the bullying, which they believe is prompted by their misbehavior or “funny ways”. Whereas the bullies feel stronger, more confident, and more secure because of their actions. The more they can weaken their victim, the more they prove their strength.
Don’t hesitate to talk to your child if any of the signs are true or if your child’s behavior seems strange. The sooner the bullying is recognized by you or someone else, the sooner help can be provided. In addition, your child withdraws more and more with time and gives up more and more. The more he accepts his role as a victim of bullying, the harder it is to build up a connection to him. Sentences like “There’s no point anyway” or “It’s up to me” show that your child has surrendered to his fate.
Your Child Withdraws Strongly
In any case, you should pay attention if your child becomes increasingly quiet and shy. A sign of this is usually a spatial separation. Does your child only sit in his or her room? Perhaps he or she even avoids contact with the family? This behavior indicates that your child is ashamed and possibly afraid that someone might become aware of his or her situation. Of course, “shutting yourself off” can also be understood as a protective instinct: Even at home, your child is trying to hide from the bullies.
In the worst case, this retreat into the interior can lead to or be a sign of depression. If your child seems down and depressed, he or she has probably already surrendered to his or her role as a victim of bullying. If you can’t reach your child at all in this situation, it’s a good idea to get professional help.
Your Child Avoids Meeting Peers
Your alarm bells should go off if your child no longer wants to meet with his or her friends. When children feel they are being bullied, they begin to systematically withdraw. This includes not only avoiding the bullies, but also other peers and, in the next step, even avoiding all social contact.
If your child suddenly complains of stomach aches before school and refuses to go to soccer, even though he or she used to love it, you should become suspicious. This behavior can occur from one day to the next. For the parents, it seems as if the child suddenly has no desire to go to school for no reason.
Your Child Is Missing Things
The clearest sign, of course, is when you notice the physical damage of bullying. Your child is missing their school backpack or their new jacket has been torn and they don’t want to explain why? This is now the third time your child has come home with broken things? Then this is a strong indication that your child is being bullied by others.
Repetitive physical injuries that your child only presses around about their origin can also be a sign. Trust your gut on this one. Often children feel so ashamed that they makeup excuses and lie very convincingly. If it seems strange to you that your reliable daughter’s gym bag has gone missing for the fourth time, seek out a conversation with her. Be attentive and question all of her behavior.
Your Child’s Health Is Deteriorating
We know from psychology that psyche and physical well-being are more closely related than we sometimes think. Health complaints also make themselves felt in victims of bullying. These can be “mental” illnesses, such as headaches or stomach aches, but also increasing loss of appetite or sleep disturbances.
Your Child’s Performance Declines
Depression, a lack of self-esteem, and inner withdrawal – All of these feelings and behaviors cause your child’s performance to drop. Especially if your child’s grades suddenly drop significantly – and seemingly for no reason – you should expect your child to be bullied.
My Child Is Being Bullied – Now What?
If your suspicions are confirmed, it’s time to act. This does not mean confronting the perpetrator or their parents. That would only make your child’s situation worse.
Strengthen Your Child
The most important thing is to strengthen your child. Bullies benefit from the insecurity and defenselessness of their victims. First, let your child know that he or she is not alone. Talk to him on one level and show him that you understand – without falling into pity. Then, you can use certain methods to boost his self-confidence. Explain to him how to verbally defend himself against the bullying attacks. Show him how much effect a self-confident posture and a strong voice have on his own behavior and feelings. It is important that you never make him feel that he himself is to blame for the bullying.
Get In Touch With The Relevant Institution
Bullying most often takes place in schools. Every third student in Germany has been bullied at school. The school serves as a contact in such cases. If your child is being bullied in class, contact the teacher. Trained liaison teachers or school psychologists are available, especially for such cases. If this does not help, do not hesitate to contact higher institutions such as the school board or the school administration.
Of course, all this should be done in confidence with the teacher or in public attention only with the consent of your child.
Seek Psychological Counseling
If the bullying situation has severely hurt your child’s psyche, it is recommended that you seek professional help. This can be a pediatrician, a psychologist, or a youth worker. Of course, you cannot force your child to go to a counseling center. Therapy or treatment against your child’s will would have no effect.
If your child refuses to accept help, you can go to a counseling center on your own. There you can anonymously describe your child’s situation and get tips on how to deal with it. In addition, a case of bullying usually affects you as a parent very much.