Heading back to school can be an exciting time, but for children who have experienced bullying, it can be very stressful. It’s not uncommon for youth who have been victims to be hesitant to tell their parents about what has been going on, in fear that they will go to the school and possibly make their victimization worse.
So how do you know if your child is being bullied if they do not open up to you? According to Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist Dr. Erin Leonard, there are signs that you can watch for. Some of these signs include trouble sleeping at night, needing extra comfort, loss of appetite, or loss of interest in something they have been involved in. Also, unexplained stomachaches and headaches could also be physical symptoms from the stress, or even an excuse to avoid going to where the bullying is happening. It’s important to remember that not all bullying happens at school. It can also happen on the baseball and soccer field, playground, study hall, and through social media.
If you believe that your child is being bullied, Dr. Leonard said the first thing you need to do is empathize with your child and support them. Then, work together to problem solve. If they are fearful about you going to their school or team coach about the problem, discuss what they are worried about, and work through it.
If you do plan on going to the school, you need to be prepared. “You really have to have all of your ducks in a row. You have to be 100 percent sure,” Dr. Leonard said.
It may be a good idea to talk to teachers and coaches and explain the situation. Ask them to keep an eye out especially when the kids don’t think they are watching. However, it’s important to remember that bullying does not only affect your own child, but the child doing the bullying, too. They are likely struggling with fragile self-esteem and identity issues. Be sure that necessary support is provided for the other child as well.
Jill Hamilton, Project Coordinator, The Kim Foundation
Jill Hamilton has been the Project Coordinator at The Kim Foundation since 2014. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and public relations from The University of Nebraska at Omaha in 2009. Since working at the foundation, she has become an active member of the Nebraska State Suicide Prevention Coalition, Nebraska LOSS Advisory Committee, The Omaha Metro Hoarding Taskforce, The Early Childhood Mental Health Coalition, Nebraska State Conference Planning Committee, is Chair of the Nebraska LOSS Teams Conference Planning Committee, and serves as the Outreach Coordinator for the Metro Area LOSS Team.