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  • 5 Reasons Bullying Victims Suffer in Silence (and Why Parents Are the Last to Know)

    Most children who get bullied feel too ashamed to open up about their experiences.
    by Kate Borbon .
5 Reasons Bullying Victims Suffer in Silence (and Why Parents Are the Last to Know)
PHOTO BY iStock
  • Bullying is a sensitive topic that most kids might feel uncomfortable talking about, even with their parents. As a result, when moms and dads try to learn more about their relationships with their peers at school, kids choose to give one-word responses that don’t give much away.

    Why your child may not tell you she is a victim of bullying 

    Parents writes that bullying can take many forms: physical (e.g., pushing or hitting); verbal (e.g., name-calling); and psychological and emotional (e.g., spreading rumors). Here are five possible reasons your child does not want to tell you someone is bullying her.

    Your child feels ashamed and embarrassed

    Shame is one of the most common reasons many children prefer to stay mum about being bullied. She may be sensitive or insecure about something, and a bully knows how to hone in on it and taunt her. Your child chooses not to open up about their situation because she feels doing so would recreate that sense of embarrassment or humiliation all over again.

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    Your child thinks no one will believe her

    Verywell Family writes that bullies usually attack children who have low self-esteem, have special needs, disciplinary issues, or don't have many friends. Bullies also prey on kids who are doing poorly in academic performance, have been branded as “lazy” in school or has been called to the principal’s office for simple infractions. These kids don’t want to tell their parents or teachers about being bullied because they think no one will believe them.

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    Your child is scared the bully will retaliate

    Another common reason your child might not want to tell you she is being bullied is she thinks the torments will go away if she shuts her mouth. Bullying-Free NZ writes some kids might choose not to talk about being bullied because they don’t want to be labeled a ‘snitch,’ which might just give their bullies another reason to bully them.

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    Your child thinks telling someone will make her an outcast

    The unfortunate thing about bullying is when it becomes accepted as a natural part of student life in a school. It is seen as something kids need to deal with and get used to if they want to be accepted by their peers. According to Psychology Today, this is a phenomenon psychologists call ‘pluralistic behavior.’

    “Adolescents usually hate to feel ‘weird’ compared to their peers, so boys, in particular, are likely to shift their attitudes in the direction of what they think everyone else believes,” the article reads.

    Your child is afraid of how you will react

    It’s only natural for parents to feel protective — you immediately want to intervene when bullying happens. According to Bullying-Free NZ, this may become an additional burden to a child who begins to worry about becoming “the kid whose parents made a scene in school.” This might even end up damaging your child’s trust in you and lessening her desire to communicate with you.

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    How to encourage your child to open up about bullying

    You need to be patient if you want your child to be comfortable with opening up to you about bullying. And it is why it is crucial to have honest and open communication lines even before your child reaches school age. Experts recommend learning to listen to her instead of getting angry and making quick decisions about how to solve the issue.

    Know how to talk to your child as she grows up

    Jim Jordan, a bullying expert and president of reportbullying.com who has been educating parents, children, and teachers about bullying for over 20 years, tells INSIDER:  “People talk in three categories: they either talk about themselves, they talk about other people, or they talk about objects and events.”

    Jordan says most parents complain about only getting one-word answers from their kids. His suggestion: Know the category your child will enjoy talking.

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    “The key is for parents to find the right category, so that their kids will open up and feel comfortable talking to them,” he says. “This will allow parents a better opportunity to find out if there’s something wrong.”

    Talk to your child consistently

    According to Amanda Nickerson, director of the Alberti Center for Bullying Abuse Prevention at the University at Buffalo, set a precedent at home when you talk to your child about how she gets along with her peers. She tells HuffPost that parents can do this by asking simple, straightforward questions such as, “Who did you play with today?”, “What are some things you like doing with other kids?” and “What are some things you don’t like that much?”

    “You’re hearing more of the story or their narrative about what’s happening. And then you as a parent—with your hopefully informed knowledge about typical child development… and the difference between conflict and bullying—can start to tease out what might be problematic,” she says.

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    If you spot symptoms suggesting your child is being bullied, however, such as significant changes in her behavior and even unexplained injuries, ask direct questions. Examples are, “Is someone being mean to you in school?”, “Is this person doing it on purpose?” and “How many times has this happened?”

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    Check on your child first

    So now you know what is happening to your child. But before you call your child’s teachers or school administrators, take the time to sit down and ask your child how she is feeling. Ask her to say her side of the story and how she feels about it. Perhaps more importantly, allow her to talk freely and try to refrain from jumping to any assumptions or making any judgments.

    Talk to your child about how you would react

    Because most kids tend to feel concerned about how their parents will react to finding out about them being bullied, Dr. Celia Heppner, Psy.D., a clinical psychologist at Children’s Health, advises moms and dads to talk to their kids about how they would address such a situation.

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    Dr. Heppner says in a video for the website, “Talking to your child about what, specifically, you would do if you heard they were being bullied, including things like talking one-on-one with them about strategies they could use to respond to bullying in the future and talking one-on-one with teachers and administrators at school to make sure that they’re safe but not doing it in front of bullies or not doing it in a way that draws unwanted attention, can help kids feel more comfortable [with] disclosing.”

    Help your child find a solution

    It might be hard, but try not to swoop in and solve your child’s problem. Instead, encourage her to create plans to deal with it healthily and maturely. Parents recommends teaching your child appropriate ways to react to bullies, such as reminding herself of her positive attributes even when she hears others ridiculing her and telling her bully upfront of how she feels when they bully her.

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    If the bullying becomes repeated and severe, go with her to talk to her teachers or school administrators. As a parent, it is necessary to contact the parents of the bully to inform them of their child’s behavior.

    At the end of the day, bullying is something that can happen even to the kindest and most good-natured children. The way to address it is to establish a healthy sense of communication early on and equip them with healthy ways to deal with bullies.

    To learn more about what you can do if your child is a bully, click here.

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