A Parent’s Guide for How to Deal With Bullies

By Stacy Colino and Laura Broadwell for parents.com

Bullying can exist in many forms: It can be physical (pushing, punching, or hitting), verbal (name-calling or threats), or psychological and emotional (spreading rumors or excluding someone from a conversation or activity).

And with the pervasive use of technology, bullying behavior can occur outside of school hours via emails, text messages, DMs, and even social media posts. These exchanges, known as cyberbullying, can be particularly hurtful and aggressive, and their harmful effects are often brought back into school the next day.

The first step to dealing with bullies is knowing how to recognize when your child is being bullied.

How to Recognize Bullying 

“Typical bullying symptoms include physical complaints such as tummy aches, as well as worries and fears, and a child not wanting to go to school,” says Steven Pastyrnak, Ph.D., the Division Chief of Psychology at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids, Michigan. “A normal defense is to avoid or withdraw from things that are making them stressed.”

Of course, these symptoms are not exclusive to bullying, but they still warrant a deeper probe into what may be behind them. “You still need to find out what’s going on,” says Lauren Hyman Kaplan, a school counselor and a specialist in social-emotional education and bullying prevention.

It can be helpful to ask questions and get your kids talking about their social situation. For instance, find out which friends they’re getting along with and which ones they’re not. “Establishing good communication should start well before the kids are having bullying problems,” Dr. Pastyrnak says. “Keep it very general for the younger kids, but if you suspect a problem or if your child has vocalized a problem, press for more details.”

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