Kids who experience the fear, guilt, and shame of being bullied don’t always tell their parents or teachers that bullying is taking place. They might be afraid that they will be thought of as a tattletale, or that the bully will retaliate if they find out the victim has told on them. ( They might just be ashamed to admit the helplessness they feel. They might think that there is nothing an adult can do about the situation. Or, they might assume that being bullied is just part of life and it’s something they have to accept.

As a parent or educator, it’s important to let victims know that they are not alone, they do not have to put up with bullying, and that there is something you can do as an adult to help stop it. However, first you must be aware of the type of bullying that is taking place, which will take focused observation.

Visit our bullying prevention blog post to learn more about the four most common types of bullying.

To figure out if your child or a student is a victim of bullying, here are eight warning signs to look out for:

1. Changes in personality

Bullying can cause more damage psychologically than it does physically. Kids or teens who were once outgoing and confident might become shy, reserved, and self-conscious. They may also become depressed and anxious, not enjoying the things they used to like. You may notice they are more moody than normal. The most common thing that happens to victims is that they withdraw from people and activities. Bullying strips them of the confidence they used to feel and makes them feel like they are all alone in the world.

2. Doesn’t want to go to school

Parents of students who are bullied will often recall that one of the first warning signs was that their child began resisting going to school, even when there wasn’t a big test they forgot to study for. When requests to miss school become regular, bullying might be the problem.

It also may be harder to get them out of the house in the morning. They come up with excuses to miss school more and more often. They may make up ailments so they can stay home or leave school early. This will be especially noticeable in good students who previously excelled academically.

3. Drop in grades

Victims of bullying typically get lower grades than their peers, because bullying affects students psychologically and they are less able to focus in class. They are less likely to participate in class out of fear of being made fun of for speaking up. Their self-confidence takes a huge hit and that affects how they behave and interact in the classroom. They may associate school and academics with bullying and view it in a more negative light than they used to.

4. Trouble sleeping/nightmares

The anxiety associated with bullying can be hard for a victim to turn off. It can cause difficulty in going to sleep and may wake them up in the middle of the night. The psychological trauma they faced during the day may come back to haunt them when they try to sleep.

5. Frequent stomach aches and headaches

Multiple studies of elementary and middle school kids revealed that victims of bullying were much more likely to have frequent, repeated health complaints like colds, sore throats, stomach aches, headaches and fatigue.

6. Unexplainable injuries and/or lost or damaged property

Not all bullying is physical, but if you notice unexplained bruises or cuts on your child or a student, physical bullying is a possibility. Physical bullies may target their aggression on the victim’s property rather than hitting or kicking the victim. Keep an eye on your child’s backpack, books and clothing. Make sure you ask questions if they are lost or damaged regularly. Bullies tend to escalate, beginning with verbal and emotional bullying and then moving on to physical bullying. Make sure you get help for you child or teen right away if they are displaying signs of physical bullying at school.

7. Nervous discussing computer and/or phone usage

Kids tend to be even more hesitant to admit they are being cyberbullied than any other form of bullying. They are afraid that concerned parents will take away their phones or internet privileges. They likely won’t be able to hide their anxiety of the cyberbullies entirely, though. If your teen becomes nervous when they check their texts or more defensive than usual when discussing their online behavior, this might be a sign that they are being cyberbullied.

8. Self-destructive behaviors

Hopefully you will recognize the signs of bullying before your child or teen gets to this point. But it’s important to recognize that self-harm is a very real reaction by victims. We hear way too many stories in the news of teens who have taken their lives because they were bullied and didn’t feel like they had any other recourse. If your child or teen begins to display a lack of interest in their well-being, or participates in dangerous or harmful activities, make sure you address the situation immediately and get professional help if necessary.

Don’t forget these are only generalized warning signs. Every child is different. Your child or teen may not display any of them and still be suffering from bullying. Make sure you maintain open lines of communication with your kids. Remember that a connected student is a protected student. Children who feel they are able to talk to their parents about what they are going through are much better able to cope with the stresses and pressures they face and make positive decisions surrounding them.

Find out how to book Just Say YES school programs on bullying prevention for your student body, staff, or parent group.

Read more on the do’s and don’ts if your child is being bullied.

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