The beginning of September can be an exciting and stressful time for both parents and children. Going back-to-school brings a whirlwind of emotions; parents who are sending their kids to kindergarten for the first time, or preparing their child to attend a new school, will have high hopes for new friendships and learning, but fears of bullying and disconnectedness likely also cross their minds.
As trusted adults, it is important that parents learn to identify the signs of bullying to better support children to thrive in safe and healthy school environments.
Here are five signs that your child may be experiencing bullying at school:
1. Reluctance to spend time at school
If your child makes excuses for going to school in the morning, wants to head straight home afterwards, or has been having issues with attendance in class, it could be an indication that there’s someone they are trying to avoid and that school is no longer a safe space for them.
2. Change in friendships
If you notice frequent changes in who your child spends time with, or if they’ve distanced themselves from known friends, this could signal that they are having trouble fitting in or are experiencing bullying within a friend group.
3. Isolation from others
Alternatively, a child could isolate themselves from friends altogether, or even their siblings, parents, and other loved ones. If your child is not wanting to spend time with others, and instead keep to themselves in their rooms, there is likely something troubling them.
4. Having trouble sleeping
Fatigue is often a sign of stress and anxiety. For children who have trouble sleeping, this could mean that they feel anxious about what might happen the next day at school, or perhaps they are mulling over something that happened that day.
5. Increased attachment to electronic devices
It is hard nowadays to assess what is a healthy amount of time for children to spend on their phones or playing video games. As parents, you can best assess whether your child is using electronics for fun, or as a distraction from real life interactions.
Realizing that your child may be experiencing bullying is heartbreaking, but acknowledging their experiences is the first step towards ending it.
Here are some ways to get help:
1. Let the school know and ask for support.
Your child’s principal, teacher, counsellor and other school support workers can keep an eye out for them at school or offer one-to-one support to talk about bullying.
2. Acknowledge your child’s experience, but don’t overstep.
Being a victim of bullying can feel shameful and embarrassing, and your child may not want to talk about it. You can offer support without having to always bring up their experiences. Empower them to take control of the situation if they feel safe to do so.
3. Talk to other parents about it.
You are likely not the only parent worried about bullying at school. Starting a conversation about your child’s experiences is an excellent way to navigate the school culture and understand who you and your child’s allies are in the school community.
Did you know? The YWCA’s after-school Youth Education Programs connect youth with positive role models. Check with your child’s school to see if a program is being offered or connect with us to volunteer.