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Recognizing the signs of bullying


November 4, 2020 Peer Relationship


Par Sophie Ménard

Psychosocial worker

As kids grow into teens, it is not uncommon to be confronted with the different roles in bullying: victim, bystander, and bully. Regardless of the profile or the role played, teenagers sometimes find it hard to confide in an adult. However, adult intervention is the key to prevention.

Parents and caregivers must therefore learn to recognize the signs in their youth. Bullying affects emotions, self-esteem, and feelings of safety, and is harmful to development. The consequences of bullying often last over time. So, if your child tells you about a problem that looks like bullying, it's best to act quickly.

The different forms of bullying

  • Physical : hitting, pushing, restraining, knocking someone down, or otherwise using physical force to harass them.

  • Psychological or emotional : verbally abusing, making hurtful remarks, insulting, or teasing to harass someone.

  • Social : excluding or alienating someone from a group, spreading rumors about them, or ignoring them

  • Discriminatory : harassing someone because of their sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender identity, religious affiliation, or any other characteristic that makes them "different."

  • Cyberbullying : harassing someone through social media, texting, email, websites, and other digital mediums.

If you suspect your teen is being bullied, the first thing you should do is try to find out more, without pushing too hard.

Recognizing the signs of bullying

The signs that your teen may be being bullied include:

  • making frequent negative comments about themselves
  • having nightmares
  • losing interest in and motivation for school; grades are dropping
  • not wanting to go to school anymore, often says they don't feel well (headaches, stomach aches, etc.)
  • seeming anxious and suspicious, especially after coming home from school and checking the computer or phone
  • withdrawing, becoming more secretive and isolates themselves
  • not wanting to talk about what they are doing at school or about their peers or their online activities
  • not feeling enthusiastic about participating in group or school activities
  • taking detours from the usual route, wanting to get to school very early or very late
  • coming home with injuries, dirty or torn clothes, broken possessions, etc.
  • reporting losing (or having stolen) personal items, needs money
  • seeming unhappy, irritable, or distressed

How do I approach the issue?

If you suspect that your adolescent is being bullied, the first thing to do is to try to find out more, without pushing too hard. Ask questions and remain calm and attentive. Let them express themselves without interruption.

Discuss your concerns about bullying. For example, you can ask:

  • How are things at school?
  • Bullying is really common. Have you ever witnessed bullying at school?
  • Have you ever been bullied? How many times?
  • Do you know how to report bullying at school?
  • Avoid judgement. If they share their experiences, don't tell them what they should or should not have done.
  • Tell them that you are willing to help and that you will do so.

You can consult this article on how to help your child who is being bullied.

References (in French)

Ministère de la famille, Intimidation
Naître et grandir