What to Do About Bullying: Advice for Michigan Parents

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Rarely does a week go by that we don’t hear about a high-profile case of bullying. It is happening in our elementary and high schools and even on college campuses. We’ve all seen the stories on the news that highlight just how devastating the effects of being bullied can be on a child or young adult. How can you recognize the warning signs that might indicate your child is being bullied? And if they are, what is the best approach to take in dealing with a bully?

9 Warning Signs Your Child is Being Bullied

Bullying expert Dr. Joel Haber shares a few of the most common warning signs that might indicate your child is being bullied:

  1. Reluctance or unwillingness to go to school
  2. Is no longer interested in after-school activities even with old friends
  3. Acting sullen or withdrawn
  4. Physical symptoms such as a recurring upset stomach or frequent headaches
  5. Reluctance to share what they did at school each day
  6. Sudden decline in grades or performance scores
  7. Upset after time spent on the phone or computer
  8. Unexplained bruises
  9. Increased after school hunger (could mean lunch or lunch money is getting stolen)

What Action to Take When You Suspect Your Child is Being Bullied 

If you believe someone is causing physical or emotional harm to your child, it may be difficult to remain calm. But keeping your cool is important. Gently begin a conversation with your child. Don’t make them feel like they are being interrogated or that they are “in trouble.”  Your child may open up and tell you the problem, and who is bullying them. If not, talk to people around them. It may be that they have shared their situation with a babysitter or one of their siblings.

Once you have an idea what is actually going on, talk with your child about how to approach the situation together. They will probably be afraid that if you “tell” on them to the school, the bullying will only become worse. If you know the bully’s parents and feel they may be unaware of the behavior, call them to arrange a time to meet and calmly discuss it over coffee.

If you don’t know the parents, the school should be your first stop in resolving the problem. Start by having a confidential conversation with their teacher and/or principal. If they can catch this behavior in progress, they can take action without anyone finding out you or your child brought this matter to light. If you try this route without success, it is time to take it to a higher level. That might mean the school board or even the police. The chances are good that if your child is being bullied, the bully has a history of this behavior or is developing one. 

Remember, your main goal is to resolve this peacefully and help your child regain their self-esteem. That means keeping a level head and remaining calm as you try to work this out.