Protect Kids
From Bullies

Most kids spend more half of their waking hours in school and at extracurricular activities. You're probably not there to observe what's going on, so if your child were being bullied, would you know? Here's what to look for -- and what to do if you think your child is being picked on at school or anywhere else.

Crying young boy

Your child arrives home from school without his jacket again. The jacket you bought just last week to replace the second jacket he lost since the weather turned cool. You're still grilling him about where he might have left it when you see the tear in the sleeve of his new shirt. He shrugs it off, claiming he can't remember how it happened.

Boys will be boys? The price we pay as parents? Kids are careless? Not necessarily. Your child could be fending off bullies at school on a daily basis.

What parents need to know

No school is completely bully-free, says Arlene Richards, an educator with 50 years of experience in the Los Angeles Unified School District. And not all kids know how to recognize bullying -- or what to do when it happens. Parents need to make sure kids understand that name calling, harassment, physical assaults, verbal threats, and put-downs are all forms of bullying, says Richards.

If you're concerned that your child doesn't recognize what's happening, make a point of showing up at school to gauge how he interacts with peers, says Richards. "Parents in general should make frequent visits to the school. They should participate in classroom, lunch area, and playground activities."

She also advises parents to impress on children that no one deserves to be bullied, and that you personally intend to ensure that school is a safe place for your child.

5 signs your child might be facing a bully

Sometimes, there are warning signs that a child is being bullied by peers. Richards recommends that parents be cognizant of uncharacteristic changes in demeanor. If you see such changes, start asking questions, and keep an eye out for the following:

  • Mood swings, crying spells that seem to come from nowhere, social withdrawal
  • A sudden slip in grades, or requests change schools or to drop out of after school school programs
  • Cuts and bruises that your child can't explain
  • Missing jackets, backpacks, or other possessions
  • Requests for extra lunch money

Seeing one or more of these behaviors in your child doesn't definitively mean he's being bullied -- but it does mean you need to ask questions and keep a close eye on the situation.

Next page: What parents should do

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