Is your teen coming home sad, angry, and/or anxious? Is your teen isolating and withdrawing from family members when they get home from school? You may be wondering whether their mood is caused by normal teenage emotions or whether something else is happening at school that may be contributing.
Bullying is a big problem that is sweeping our nation and greatly impacting our teens. Research shows that 1 in 3 U.S. students are being bullied at school. Many teens feel like they cannot tell their parents that they are being bullied because their parents will want to get involved, and teens tend to believe that if their parents get involved the bullying may just get worse. Teens may also feel flat out embarrassed to admit to their parents that they are being bullied. Being bullied can feel shameful, and many teens think that they can handle the bullying on their own.
If you’re worrying about whether your teen is being bullied, below are some signs that you can look out for:
Not wanting to go to school. Your teen may have never had a problem going to school before, and out of nowhere, you notice that your teen no longer wants to go to school.
Avoidance of social situations. You may notice that your teen is isolating and no longer wanting to spend time anywhere but inside their bedroom. Teens may be isolating in order to avoid talking to others about the bullying that they’re experiencing.
Decreased self-esteem. Your teen may be showing signs that they are not happy with the way they look any more. Your teen may be hiding behind different clothing (i.e. hoodies & hats) that they usually don’t wear.
Self-destructive behaviors. You may be noticing that your teen has been acting out at home. They may not be acting like their usual self, and you might notice that they’re more prone to lashing out and exploding when something upsets them.
It is important to keep in mind that each teen is different and may or may not show these signs of being bullied. As a parent, keeping an eye-out for unexpected changes in your teen’s mood and behavior is one of the key ways you can offer support.
So, what can you do if you’re concerned that your teen is being bullied? Here are some ways to offer help:
Check in with your teen daily to see how their school day went.Checking in with your teen will show them that you are interested in how their day went, and this can open up a door for your teen to share about what’s happened socially or at school.
Tell your teen that you have noticed changes with them. Let your teen know that you are there for them if and when they are ready to talk about whatever may be bothering them.
Provide your teen with a safe place where they can openly express any and all feelings that they may be holding in. If your teen is being bullied, they most likely have all sorts of feelings piling up, and they may not know how to express these built up emotions or what they can do to work through them. As a parent, it’s key to let your teen know that home is a safe place in where they can talk about and work through whatever tough situations they’re experiencing. It makes a big difference for teens to know they’re not alone, even if they might not acknowledge wanting your parental support.
That said, please don’t push. This can be really hard when you’re a worried parent. However, if your teen is being bullied, they’re probably already feeling pretty powerless. One of the last things they need is to feel like they have no control in getting to choose what they share with you.
Bullying is a serious and all-too-common problem that teens are bound to face, witness, or even engage in. The effects of bullying can follow teens into adulthood and can come with negative outcomes. Research shows that only about 40% of students who are bullied notify adults about the bullying, so it’s important for parents and caring adults to be able to identify signs of bullying and to be aware of how they can support teens. While bullying can feel awful, it’s by no means an insurmountable problem. The key is to help take the shame out of the experience, and support your teen in openly expressing what’s happening. Then, they’re not alone and can have the support they need in problem-solving and addressing the situation while building their life skills at the same time.
By Allison Barragan
Thrive Therapy & Counseling
1614 X St., Suite A
Sacramento, CA 95818
PS--Are you concerned for your teen and want them to have some positive social support? Our next round of Teen Space, a teen support group, will be starting in 2019!
For statistics and additional information about bullying: