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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    What are the signs of bullying?

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  • Joe Gubbay

    Clinical Psychologist, Counsellor, Psychologist, Psychotherapist

    I have worked in public hospitals as well as private practice over the past 25 years. As a clinical psychologist I treat depression, social anxiety, … View Profile

    Generally the way you find out that a child is being bullied is because they tell you.  Sometimes the information will come from a teacher or even another child, such as a brother or sister who finds out what is happening.  Often kids will be reluctant to admit that they're being bullied, and that's where you might have to depend on picking up on signs.  There isn't really an obvious sign that tells you that a child is being bullied, so you've got to keep an open mind.  

    There are consequences of bullying that you can sometimes see.  Bullying can result in a child becoming quite depressed, especially if they become socially isolated because of the bullying.  A bullied child can seem “weak” to other kids, who then don't want to be friends with that child.  That results in social isolation and a drop in self-esteem.  Signs of depression can include tearfulness, increased emotionality, a lack of interest in activities that would normally be enjoyed, and bedwetting.  

    Some kids will want to avoid the bully or even school at all costs, with an increase in days away, sometimes with physical complaints like a sore tummy.  Other kids will “externalise” their distress, with increased behavioural problems at home and/or school.  

    In short, you're looking for any negative change in your child.  The next step is to ask your child; for some children a direct question can be asked, whereas other kids might need a bit more subtlety first.  For example, you could ask the child how things are going at school, and if there are any bullies at school.  But I do recommend that during this conversation you do ask your child directly about whether s/he is being bullied.  You might also want to raise any concerns you might have with your child's schoolteacher; often, if they can't answer you straight away, teachers will be able to monitor your child in the playground to see whether bullying is occurring.  

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