How to deal with signs your child is being bullied

WASHINGTON — There are so many things parents need to keep an eye on now that kids are back in school, and evidence of bullying is a big one.

“We just as parents have to be attentive to signs that the child is not having a good time at school,” says Dr. Marco Grados, head of the division of child and adolescent psychiatry at Johns Hopkins.

He says comments like “I don’t want to go back to school” or “I didn’t have fun today” can be an indication of bullying. Parents should ask a few questions to see what is really behind those words, and if the child is indeed dealing with a bully, be prepared to take action.

The exact response depends on regulations in your school district, and your child’s personality.

“Some children take bullying very hard, and some seem to be more resilient to it,” says Grados.

In Maryland, for example — where the majority of Grados’ patients live — there is an online form for reporting suspected bullying to the school principal. Often, that is enough, but sometimes it is also a good idea to consult a pediatrician or therapist.

“It does vary from case to case,” says Grados, though he emphasizes the school reporting process is usually a good place to start.

He also encourages parents to remember that bullying can take various forms, and there are many more ways to torment kids today.

“It used to be the physical acts on the playground. Now you have Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook and so on,” Grados explains.

He also emphasizes that mental health professionals are concerned about the emotional well-being not only of a bullied child, but the bully as well.

The bully often needs as much help as his or her victims, and Grados says a bully often has had the experience of being bullied in the past.

“It’s a reaction that one can see psychologically — identifying with an aggressor,” he explains.

Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia all have information available online to help parents, including links to local resources.

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