Even with your thoughtful guidance and superhuman parental-reflex skills, there is sadly no way to know everything about your child’s school experience.
In addition to fretting about your child’s reading comprehension and how they are adjusting to a new school year, you might also worry about whether your child is socializing effectively and whether they are building friendships that could last beyond the walls of their school.
You may be worried also that they are being bullied. The indicators of bullying are often so subtle; you might miss them. Plus, it’s likely a child will stay mum about what exactly goes on in school to avoid being punished by the bully.
If your child suddenly starts expressing shame or guilt, you may have reason to worry. If your child becomes anxious or nervous around friends and family and that puts him, or her down when the spotlight is on them, it could be an indicator they are experiencing the shame and guilt of bullying.
Ask directly if anyone is making your child feel bad, and keep your ears open well after the conversation has ended, as kids sometimes circle back to share what’s going on with them with you hours or even days after you have provided an opening.
If a child who was once fast to release any temper tantrum or overcome any hostility now seems like he/she is constantly on the edge of a breakdown, he/she could be responding to a new level of stress.
Acting suddenly sensitive is a sign of bullying. Bullying takes an emotional toll on your child, and this may manifest as increased sensitivity or emotionality. You may see overreactions and dramatic statements that do not fit the context of your child’s immediate situation.
Listen to what he or she has to say, even if you can’t make sense of it in the moment. It could be that you are observing your child vent pent-up frustration, hurt and anger over bullying that you are not aware of — and that he or she is struggling to cope with.
If your child is struggling to fall asleep, stay asleep or wake up, or if he or she is having nightmares, it’s a good time to check in on social connections and friendships to see if bullying is contributing to the issue.
You can ask them directly about what’s making them struggle to count sheep or you can take a quick look at their public social media accounts. You might find obvious proof of bullying that’s interfering with their sleep, hygiene and health.
You should also be on the lookout for potential bullying habits if a child was once bullied him or her. Sometimes children who are the target of bullying will become bullies in an effort to cope with the feelings of powerlessness and frustration they feel.
Encourage your child to exhibit positive behaviour within healthy friendship or peer groups that have good adult oversight. Most important, model good behaviour yourself and be an active presence in your child’s life.