It’s back to school time again in America and around the world, and for many kids and teens returning to class means just one thing, and that is bullying. While some will say that bullying has “always been around,” but the truth of the matter is that technology has made it more pervasive than ever before, and back-to-school time has become the biggest nightmare of the year for millions of American students. In some cases, back-to-school bullying can become so severe and traumatic that it can trigger suicidal thoughts and even cause loss of life.
So, as a parent, how do you know when your kid might be being victimized by back-to-school bullying? Here are five signs that your child could be dealing with bullying at school.
Changes in mood or behavior.
While this might seem like a pretty straightforward sign of back-to-school bullying, if you have kids, you know that their behavior can be hard to predict under the best of circumstances. This is especially true if your child is entering their teens and has recently hit puberty or is in the midst of changing schools.
However, as Stomp Out Bullying reports, there are some behavioral changes that are regularly tied to bullying rather than run-of-the-mill childhood or teen angst. If you notice that your child is suddenly anxious when heading to school in the morning, depressed or withdrawn when they get home from school or actively tries to avoid going to school at all, you could be dealing with a case of back-to-school bullying.
Changes in eating or sleeping habits.
Back-to-school bullying can often trigger severe anxiety or depression, both of which can have a negative impact on your child’s sleeping and/or eating habits. Depending on the child, you might find that they suddenly withdraw from the world by napping frequently or develop an inability to fall asleep at night because they are too anxious to wind down. While a person’s sleeping habits often change throughout their lifetime and could become more erratic during adolescence, a profound, sudden change around back-to-school time (especially coupled with other indicators) could be a sign that your child is dealing with bullying.
The same is true when it comes to eating. If your child is suddenly missing meals, that could be a sign of social anxiety. If you child is suddenly over-eating, it could mean that a back-to-school bullying situation is preventing them from enjoying their lunch in the cafeteria at school.
@Roxxsaurus im rlly dreading to go back to school because of bullying ugh it's in less than a week— emily (@emilyyybnm) August 6, 2016
now, because of Trump and the school bullying and the gay bashing and the killer cops, a lot of the uglies are....exposed. we see you now— ECHOisthename™ (@ECHOisthename) August 4, 2016
School bullying has taken such a toll that I just heard a man yelling "EERRRGGGHHH" & immediately assumed he was talking about me.— Nat Guest (@unfortunatalie) July 31, 2016
Suddenly antisocial and/or notable changes in their social group.
For most children and teens, school is a hub of social activity, and back-to-school time is a time for reuniting with peers, friends, and school cliques. If your child is the victim of back-to-school bullying, however, heading back to class can be just the opposite. In many cases where children are the victims of bullying, they suddenly find themselves without friends and socially ostracized.
Bullying can cause 'social stress' in monkeys: "It's possible to actually change an individual's social status a... http://t.co/Om1QEzqA— Mort DeTravail (@DeadmanWorking) April 9, 2012
This potential signal of back-to-school bullying can vary from child to child, and the important thing to pay attention to is a change in your child’s normal social circle. For instance, if your child has always had one or two close friends and suddenly becomes a loner, that may be cause for concern. If your child has always previously tended toward a large social circle and overnight “their group” changes, dissolves or is whittled down to just one or two, you might be dealing with a back-to-school bullying situation.
Doesn’t want to go to school.
From time to time, every child is going to try to get out of going to class. It could be because they’re tired, because they’re having a lazy day or because they forgot to do their homework. However, if you notice that your child is suddenly doing everything imaginable to avoid going to school, you might want to take a closer look at the situation to rule out back-to-school bullying.
If your child or teen is suddenly making up illnesses, faking a fever, complaining of headaches or an upset stomach frequently and without an apparent cause, bullying could be a factor. Of course, if your kid is complaining about a pervasive ailment, the first thing you need to do is consult with their physician. However, once a physical cause has been ruled out, you may want to look for a social cause, such as bullying.
Bullying can cause your child to complain about being ill for a number of reasons, and not all include flat-out lying about being sick to stay home. If your child or teen is the victim of back-to-school bullying, the stress alone can cause headaches and stomach aches. Missing meals and losing sleep as a result of bullying can also contribute to feeling down in the dumps.
Unexplained injuries and/or property damage/change in social media behavior.
Is your kid coming home with unexplained bruises, cuts or scratches? Maybe their clothing is often inexplicably damaged, or their things are going missing or appear to be undergoing more than your usual wear-and-tear. If so, your child could be the victim of severe back to school bullying.
If your child’s bullying has progressed to the point that it has gotten physical, it’s likely that you’ve noticed not just the unexplained injuries and/or property damage. By the time a bully takes it to that level, in many cases, they’ve been bullying their victim regularly and for a while. As a parent, it’s important not to ignore unexplained physical injuries, especially when they happen regularly.
As the parent of a modern youth, keeping an eye on your child’s social media posts and usage can be a critical tool in both identifying and preventing bullying.
If you do believe that your child is the victim of back-to-school bullying, the first thing to remember is not to panic. As Overcoming Bullying suggests, one of the single best ways to know for sure whether your child is the victim of back-to-school bullying is to talk to your child. In many instances, a bullying victim won’t admit that they are dealing with abuse right away, so you may have to have more than one conversation.
Once you have determined that you are dealing with a back-to-school bullying situation, the first thing you need to do is assure your child that they are not at fault. Encourage them to document what’s going on, then take the situation to the school administration. Understand the bullying policy at your child’s school and be your child’s advocate. Follow-up and make sure that the school is following its own policies.
"My son has been the victim of school bullying. They punched him, kicked him, & threw him to the ground" -Parent #1 pic.twitter.com/7FUaQAsGVQ— Families4ExcSchools (@Fam4ExcSchools) April 7, 2016
In any bullying situation, the mental and physical safety of your child are paramount. If you feel like your kid is in danger, don’t hesitate to notify authorities above the school level. There are many kinds of bullying, from racial to sexual to psychological to physical. Make sure your child knows that they don’t have to tolerate any of them.
Another way to reduce back-to-school bullying situations and advocate for victims is to make sure parents are involved at the school level.
Never forget, you are your child’s biggest champion. You know your kid better than anyone. If you suspect back-to-school bullying, as a parent you need to investigate. There are signs that could indicate back-to-school bullying, but whether or not you see an indicator your child is being victimized by back-to-school bullying, if you suspect bullying, take a closer look at the situation and step in if your suspicions are confirmed. Back-to-school bullying can leave permanent scars or even be deadly.
[Image via Shutterstock]