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Health Matters: What to do when your child is being bullied

No parent wants their child to be a victim of bullying, but for many kids, it’s a painful part of life. So how can you tell if it’s happening and what are the solutions to stop it?
by Madelyn Fernstrom, PhD /
Image: Teenage girl in hooded top, with head in hands in despair
Elva Etienne / Getty Images
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Every parent wants to make sure their child is not being bullied at school or anywhere else. But when this type of behavior is directed at your child – and he or she can’t ignore it or assert themselves – it can make life miserable. Few children will tell a parent they are being bullied so figuring this out can be a tricky but critical challenge. However there are definite signs of bullying that you can identify. And if you see them consistently, there are some well-documented solutions to help.

Types of Bullying Behavior

Physical Bullying: Physical harm to a child (punching, kicking or holding down)

Relational Bullying: Hurtful, emotional behavior in a social setting (excluding or isolating others)

Cyberbullying: Using social media to target a child with negative comments (going online to make fun of a child’s appearance or actions)

Signs Your Child Is Being Bullied

Avoiding or withdrawing from activities he or she usually enjoys.

Having a difficult time interacting with other children on the playground.

More frequent crying.

Problems at school, including refusal to attend or a noticeable drop in grades.

Develop a Plan to Stop the Bullying Behavior

Practice assertive responses with your child, to pre-plan an answer when bullied.

Find an adult advocate who can help support your child in these situations.

Look for other kids with whom your child can engage to be part of a group.

If the situation doesn’t improve, it’s a good idea to consult with a child psychologist or psychiatrist who can work with both parents and children on effective strategies for dealing with bullying behavior.

Madelyn Fernstrom, PhD is the NBC News Health Editor. Follow her on Twitter @drfernstrom.

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