THE BLOG
10/08/2012 01:07 pm ET

Facing the Truth: Determining the Warning Signs of a Bully

Are you a mom, dad, teacher, grandparent or a concerned friend? Do you worry about your kids the moment you send them out the door to school each day? Back when I was kid, bullies existed for sure. But, the frequency and severity of bullying did not seem so extreme. Sure, kids teased other kids on the bus, there were arguments and even physical fights, but today's depth of bullying seems to have become extreme. Often times, children who have been bullied or are the target of a bully are afraid and even ashamed. They keep the torment a secret for fear of drawing more attention to the situation. As parents, it's our job to learn the signs of bullying.

So how do you know if your child is being bullied? Bullying is a silent threat to our kids, because we often don't know that it's happening. By learning to identify the signs, you may be able to pinpoint bullying at the start. According to StopBullying.gov, here are some common signs to watch for:

-Your child seems quiet or withdrawn. Do you have a normally engaged, active and chatty child who is suddenly quiet and showing a lack of interest in the things they typically love? Ask questions and get to the root of the problem.
-Your child complains frequently of feeling under the weather. Bullying can cause stress and anxiety in children, showing itself in many forms such as health complaints like stomachaches or headaches. It has also been hypothesized to depress immune functioning.
-Your child is experiencing frequent bad dreams. If your baby comes to you in the middle of the night complaining of bad dreams and nightmares on a frequent basis, they may be experiencing higher than normal levels of stress, which could be caused by bullying.
-Your child consistently asks to stay home from school. When your young child isn't excited to see their friends at school and wants to stay home regularly, there may be a problem. As a parent, it's time to ask some questions of the teachers and administration of the school.
-If your child has strange and mysterious signs of physical injury. Kids get hurt, there's no doubt about it. They scrape their knees and elbows, but if they begin to show signs of injuries that cannot be explained or your child is trying to hide, they may be experiencing the effects of a bully.

The signs of bullying come in many forms and are often things we do not notice right away. Staying in tune with our children can be a challenge at times, but knowing that they are safe is number one. As a mom, I understand how easy it is to get caught up in the day to day hectic role of parenting, but I also recognize that having open and honest communication with our children is a key factor in giving them the confidence to look to an adult when they need help.

If you think your child may be the victim of a bully or if you think they might be bullying another child, there are many resources that can provide support. Uncovering the signs of a bully is the responsibility of an adult and can shape the person a child becomes. Getting to the bottom of the problem is essential, as bullies are often dealing with emotional or physical stress themselves. Staying involved, informed and educated can mean the difference between stopping a bully before they really hurt someone or letting a bully go too far. As far as I am concerned, I believe it is our job to keep watch on all children for signs of bullying as some children may not feel comfortable speaking to those closest to them, however they may speak to you; a school teacher, friend, minister, sister or brother... Let's work together to keep our eyes and ears open and not let any child feel let down by our lack of awareness.

Lots of love,
Loren Ridinger

For more information or help determining the signs of a bully, please visit the following sites:
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, International Bullying Prevention Association,
American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry,
and The National Crime Prevention Council.