How to spot the signs of bullying

Signs to watch for if you think your child may be being bullied

Estimated read: 7 minutes

It can be every parent’s dread if they suspect their child is experiencing bullying. If your child has not opened up to you about this, but you have a gut feeling, you may be on the lookout for signs that your child is being bullied.

Key points:

  • If you notice that your child is feeing withdrawn, isolated or other emotions that are not usual of your child, try to talk to them to find out what is going on for them
  • Your child may be feeling very anxious about going to school or the teacher may be in touch with you that their schoolwork has changed, and this may be a potential sign of bullying
  • It may not be bullying and there may be other changes that your child is struggling with so avoid coming to conclusions but investigate why they are feeling they way they are 
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Bullying affects lots of people and can happen anywhere. There is no legal definition of bullying. But it is usually defined as repeated behaviour which is intended to hurt someone either emotionally or physically and is often aimed at certain people because of their race, religion, gender or sexual orientation or any other aspect such as appearance or disability.

Some of the signs below might not be applicable and there could be other worries your child is facing, and they may display similar emotions or actions as listed below. Speak to your child if you are worried about them.

Emotional signs of bullying

  • Isolating themselves and not talking to the family
  • Feeling withdrawn and spending more time alone
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Changes in behaviour such as feeling more angrier than usual
  • Avoiding social media
  • Not seeing their friends after school or at weekends
  • Anxiety and nervousness that wasn’t displayed previously

Physical signs of bullying

  • Bruises, cuts and marks that cannot be explained
  • Issues with their sleep
  • Complaining of headaches or stomach aches
  • Bedwetting

Changes at school

  • Suddenly doing less well at school
  • Anxious about going to school and saying they are feeling unwell more than usual
  • Items that are stolen that cannot be easily explained
  • Missing money that could have been stolen
  • Damaged possessions such as bags, uniforms, etc.
  • Not taking part in after school clubs

There could be other reasons for these signs, so try to avoid jumping to conclusions and ask yourself the following questions. Is there anything else bothering my child? Have there been changes at home like a new baby, or divorce or separation?

If there has not been any other changes and you suspect bullying may be the cause of the distress and anxiety, it is important to try and act as early as you can.  Please read our article on how to talk to your child about bullying for advice on doing this. 

Further resources 

It may help to chat to other parents on our forums to find out how they are dealing with this issue within their family life. You can also talk to us online via our live chat service, email us at askus@familylives.org.uk or call us on our helpline on 0808 800 2222 to speak to trained family support worker. 

This page was updated on September 2021

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