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Bullying toward your Child

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Dec 2, 2022.

What is bullying?

Bullying is a pattern of abuse designed to harm or control another person. Verbal bullying means someone is calling your child names, using words to hurt him or her, or threatening to hurt him or her. Physical bullying means someone is hitting or physically attacking your child. Social abuse includes anything designed to keep your child from being accepted by others. An example is starting rumors about your child. Bullying that happens through e-mail, the Internet, or text messages is called cyberbullying.

What increases my child's risk for being bullied?

Anyone can be the target of bullying. Some children who bully target children who are smaller. Your child may be quiet or not have a large amount of friends. He or she may still be bullied even if he or she is tall and friendly.

What are the signs my child is being bullied?

  • Frequent headaches or stomach problems
  • Not wanting to go to school or to a school activity
  • Not going to school, or not going to certain classes
  • Decline in grades
  • Negative comments your child makes about himself or herself
  • Becoming withdrawn, depressed, or not wanting to do things he or she used to enjoy
  • Frequent bruises, cuts, or other injuries your child tries to cover or will not tell you about
  • Becoming upset after he or she uses the Internet or a cell phone
  • Missing items, such as a new jacket or an electronic device
  • Self-injury behaviors, such as cutting himself or herself

What are the risks of being bullied?

Your child may develop poor self-esteem. He or she may become depressed or drop out of school. Bullying can increase your child's risk for developing a drug or alcohol addiction. He or she may have posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or an anxiety disorder. Bullying can lead to thoughts of suicide.

What can I do to help support my child?

Help him or her understand that the bullying is not his or her fault. Your child may think he or she did something to deserve being bullied, but bullying is never okay.

  • Ask your child about school. He or she may not want to tell you he or she is being bullied. It may help to ask him or her more general questions about how school is going. Ask about friends and classmates. Ask if he or she has a favorite class or a class he or she does not like.
  • Take your child's fears seriously. He or she needs to feel safe and to know that the bullying will stop. Do not tell your child that what he or she is describing is something every child goes through. Do not tell him or her to grow up, and do not dismiss his or her fears.
  • Talk to your child's school officials. His or her school may offer programs designed to stop bullying. Your child may not want to tell anyone about the bullying out of fear that the bullying will become worse. Help him or her practice so he or she can tell a teacher or other adult about the bullying. He or she will need to tell the adult what happened, when it occurred, and if anyone else saw or heard it.
  • Help your child develop healthy ways to respond. Teach your child to walk away from the person who is bullying him or her. Your child may need to change a class or change when he or she has lunch. Talk to your child about his or her Internet, e-mail, and text message accounts. You may need to have them changed or closed to prevent cyberbullying.
  • Keep records of the bullying. If possible, save all e-mail, text, and similar messages your child receives. You will be able to contact the police or other authorities to get help if any threats are being made against your child. You may be able to talk to the parents of the child who is bullying your child.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your child's care. Learn about your child's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your child's healthcare providers to decide what care you want for your child. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.