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10/6/22 blog post

how to spot signs of bullying

October is Bullying Prevention Month

Children who are bullied may struggle in their social or emotional development, face physical harm, and may have their academic performance suffer. Sometimes, these impacts can last months or even years after the bullying has stopped. 

Knowing the signs of bullying and preventing it from starting can be helpful for all children involved, including the bully. Remember, every child is different – some may bring up concerns they have, while others may stay silent. It’s OK to ask a child directly if they’ve ever seen bullying or been bullied and what it looked like.

What signs of bullying should I look for?
  • Reluctance to go to school may be a sign that something uncomfortable is happening. Ask questions such as, “Is there bullying happening at school?” or “Who is a trusted adult at school that you could go to if you see someone being bullied?” and listen carefully to their answers. Not sure how to get the conversation started? Read more about starting conversations with your kids
  • Changes in mood. Some children may become tearful or unusually emotional before school or being around a bully. If you notice these changes, ask them about it privately and remember to listen and validate their emotions.
  • Physical symptoms. Any unexplained bruises or soreness should be asked about. If your child has frequent stomachaches or headaches before school, this may be due to feelings of stress or fear. Take the time to talk to them about how they’re feeling and if their symptoms are related to bullying at school.
  • Behavioral problems. Many children express their emotions through behaviors. If your child suddenly has emotional outbursts or struggles to follow directions and participate in activities without conflict with their peers or family members, talk to them to find out what may be causing the problem.
How can bullying be prevented?
  • Encourage your child to be kind to everyone, not just their friends.
  • Talk with children openly about how others experience unfair treatment because of their abilities, what they look like, or their background. This helps build awareness, empathy and a culture of inclusivity and kindness for all children. 
  • Don’t be afraid to share stories of times you experienced unfair treatment and what you did to overcome it.
  • Teach children how to recognize their emotions and talk about their emotions. Being able to regulate emotions instead of acting on emotions such as anger can be helpful in preventing negative behaviors towards others.
How do I help my child stand up to bullying?
  • Practice telling someone to stop. Sometimes identifying out loud that bullying is happening can help everyone think about what they are saying.
  • Talk to them about how they might help a friend get out of a bullying situation. This could mean walking with them to a trusted adult or standing next to them so that they don’t feel alone.
  • Discuss what trusted adults they can go to at various points in their day, such as at school, during practice or activities, etc. Make sure they know who to report bullying to if they see it. Remind them you are always available to help as well. By talking about bullying, you’re giving them key tools to spot it and speak out against it. 

where can I find more resources? 

Bullying can be a tough topic to talk about with your kids, but by practicing having these conversations, you can help your child know that you're a trusted source for advice. Building trust and a foundation can take time. If you're looking for more tips on starting conversations, read our step-by-step guide to get kids talking. Then, if you're looking for more conversation starters, use this free resource with more than 50 conversation starter topics. 

If you’re looking for more ways to support others and discuss mental health,  join the movement of On Our Sleeves. We believe that no family should struggle alone in their journey with mental health. Check out more resources and guides, here.