3 New warning signs your kid is being bullied

Apr 1, 2012 at 10:11 a.m. ET

Though some signs of bullying are more obvious -- such as unexplained physical injuries -- others are not. Read on to learn more about these three signs that your child may be being bullied.

teen being bullied

Physical bullying is generally easier for parents to identify, due to bruising, cuts and other injuries, as well as rips and stains on clothing that indicate an altercation has taken place. When clothing, electronics and other items go missing or get destroyed without explanation, it may also be a warning sign. However, all bullying isn't physical. Unfortunately, many children are being psychologically bullied or threatened. This type of bullying can take place at school, during extracurricular activities or even online. If your child is being emotionally or psychologically bullied, you'll have to look beyond the surface to see the signs.

Read about how to protect your kids from cyber-bullying >>

Mood swings

Certainly many children, especially teens, experience mood swings. However, if the behavior is beyond the norm for your child, you should look into the possibility that she may be dealing with a bully. Crying spells that seem to come out of nowhere, sudden outbursts of anger or erratic reactions to routine challenges may be indicative of a bullying situation.

Social withdrawal

Children who are suffering from bullying or intimidation may withdraw socially. If you notice that your child suddenly loses interest in some of his favorite activities or interests, cuts himself off from friends or refuses to participate in social opportunities, it may be reason for concern. Sometimes bullied kids will request to drop out of sports or to even move to a new school. If your child seems less outgoing or more anxious about social interaction than he normally is, then you must delve deeper into the situation.

Headaches, stomach aches and more

Children who are being bullied often fake illnesses to avoid school or other activities. Additionally, the stress from bullying can cause actual illnesses, frequent headaches, recurring stomach aches and other health issues. If your child has a dramatic change in his eating habits, such as binge eating or skipping meals, it may also be a warning sign that bullying is taking place. Difficulty sleeping, nightmares, running away, self-destructive behavior and talks of suicide are also warning signs that something serious may be happening in your child's life.

Keep in mind

Your child may actually be doing the bullying. If you think your kid is intimidating or bullying others, read about how to stop your child from bullying.

What to do

Many kids being bullied feel helpless and humiliated. Therefore, it can be difficult for them to tell their parents or anyone else about the situation. They may fear backlash from the bully, judgment from their peers or rejection from their parents. If you suspect your child is being bullied, talk to her from an angle of support rather than accusation. Make your child feel safe and try to avoid a dramatic emotional reaction. Remind her of the right to feel safe and happy, and applaud her courage to take a stand.

If you find out your child is being bullied in school, talk to the teacher, school counselor and principal as soon as possible. If you don't get enough support from the school, don't be afraid to go higher up to the school superintendent or state Department of Education. When a crime has taken place or you feel your child is at risk for immediate harm, call 911 or head to your local police station.

Learn more about how to handle and stop bullying at stopbullying.gov, education.com and bullyhelp.org.

Read more about what to do if your child is being bullied >>

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