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How can parents and teachers spot the signs of bullying?

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Not dobbing is a tenet of the schoolyard code so with a quarter of Australian kids reporting they’ve been bullied repeatedly and half saying they’ve experienced bullying at least once, parents and teachers need to be able to identify the signs and step in.

“It is important children are not left to sort out bullying on their own as it can be devastating for a child’s confidence and self-esteem,” said Assoc Prof Julie Green, Executive Director of the evidence-based Australian parenting website raisingchildren.net.au.

“If parents are aware their child is being bullied they can take steps together with other key people, for example teachers, to quickly stop it. There is no single way to tell if your child is being bullied if they don’t tell you, but there are some social, emotional and physical signs parents and carers can look out for.”

Bullying is not always obvious to parents. Key signs can include:

  • Bruises, cuts and scratches
  • Poor eating and sleeping
  • Not wanting to go to school
  • Bedwetting
  • Avoiding social events
  • Complaints about headaches or stomach aches
  • Missing property
  • Torn clothing

“You might notice your child might seem unusually anxious, upset, nervous, teary, withdrawn or secretive and these behaviours become more pronounced at the end of the weekend or holidays, when the child has to go back to school. Listen to what your child has to tell you and make it clear that you will help,” Green said.

It can be difficult to know for sure if a child is being bullied but talking about bullying within families is one of the best ways to help and protect children.

“Days like today’s National Day of Action against Bullying and Violence are an important opportunity to start a conversation at home about bullying, why it’s not OK, and how we can support children on this issue.” 

Raisingchildren.net.au has more tips on talking with children about bullying, how to recognise bullying, working with the school, as well as information on what to do if parents suspect their child is a bully. The site, visited by more than 50,000 parents a day, offers free articles, videos and other resources backed by Australian experts.


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