Bullying causes severe emotional harm and if overlooked it can slowly eat away at a child’s self-esteem leaving them feeling worthless and unimportant. Whether it is physical abuse or verbal abuse the outcome in the long run can still be the same – the person is left feeling lonely, anxious and depressed.
I will never forget when I was bullied in my first year of high school. I was short and my backpack was almost the same size as I was, and I remember being taunted by two girls who were older than me because of it. Luckily for me it didn’t go on for long, probably because the bullies found someone else to taunt instead, but I never told anyone about it apart from my husband a few years ago and now all of you. Then it got me thinking, if I didn’t tell anyone at the time how would anyone have known that I was being bullied? Were there any obvious signs? Now that I have two small children of my own, I want to be sure I know the red flags to look out for when they head off to primary school and into the big wide world. I don’t want them to suffer the same humiliation that I did, although these days it seems to be a growing trend. According to a survey conducted in 2013 of 20,000 Australian students in Years 4–9, 27% of them said they were bullied every few weeks or more during a school term.
Here are some signs that your child may be suffering at the hands of a bully:
They come home from school with physical injuries – bruises and scratches for which they have no valid explanation
Your child is reluctant to go to school, maybe always trying to convince you that they don’t feel well and they need to stay home
Your child generally talks about hating school
They keep losing school items, clothes, lunch money or personal items
There has been a change to their sleep pattern. Are they finding it hard to sleep, are they having nightmares or are they suddenly wetting the bed?
Your child may suddenly be getting into trouble at school and acting out
They are over eating or have a sudden loss of appetite
They appear noticeably withdrawn and their self-esteem has decreased
Their grades are suddenly slipping
Your child may have attempted to run away or even talked about suicide
If you suspect your child is being bullied try talking to them about it. Understandably, most children will probably reject your claims in fear of being humiliated or not wanting to be seen as a tattletale, so if that fails try asking one of their close friends or arrange a meeting with one of their teachers. If there is no one you feel that you can turn to try calling a parent line or getting in contact with a trained medical professional who will be able to discuss your concerns.
When I look back at the girls who bullied me now I laugh, because I’m happy and successful. I’ve had dreams and I’ve fulfilled them and there have been obstacles but I’ve overcome them. It almost motivated me to prove that I could become a better person than they ever would be. But for some children who are bullied and even the smallest of signs are left unnoticed they slip into a state of self-loathing and despair. Don’t ignore the signs. If you know that something isn’t quite right, talk to someone about it, before it’s too late.