Dr. Andrea Bastiani Archibald, Chief Girl Expert
Bullying is a tough topic for both parents and children. Too often, kids who are bullied feel embarrassed or are worried they might have actually done something to deserve the treatment, and so they may not come right out and tell their parents. This in mind, it’s up to parents and caregivers to look out for signs, many of them subtle—especially when it comes to girls, for whom bullying is often relational and purposely kept out of teachers’ sight. Teachers are also encouraged to watch for indicators that their students might be experiencing bullying.
Beyond obvious physical signs—whether inflicted by someone else or through self-harm in an attempt to escape negative feelings—bullying can be identified via changes in your daughter’s typical mood or behavior. Here are 10 more nuanced signs a girl might be experiencing bullying and need your help:
1. She’s suddenly anxious, for instance making excuses to get out of going to school or riding the bus.
2. Her grades are slipping.
3. When she gets home from school, she races to use the bathroom first thing. This may indicate she’s getting picked on in the school restroom so isn’t using it.
4. She’s starving when she gets home from school. The cafeteria can be a socially complex and daunting place for a girl who’s being picked on. When girls are being excluded from a former group of friends or have no one to sit with, they often skip lunch altogether.
5. She asks you for notes excusing her from gym class. This could be a sign of locker room bullying, including about her size/shape. Accordingly, she may not want to change clothes in front of other girls.
6. She complains of headaches and stomachaches, and/or is making more frequent trips to the school nurse’s office. Physical symptoms can result from anxiety and/or be mentioned out of the desire to avoid social interactions with classmates, for instance by missing specific class periods.
7. Her clothing, school supplies, toys, or other possessions have been damaged or recently gone missing. She may be experiencing extreme levels of teasing, and her possessions may have even been stolen from her.
8. She’s suddenly avoiding friends and social activities that she previously enjoyed.
9. She shows a newfound disinterest in or avoidance of phones, including texting and social networking (a sign of cyberbullying, specifically).
10. She’s suddenly having trouble sleeping or waking up to nightmares.
If the girl in your life displays any of these signs, talk to her in an open and supportive way to learn more about what’s going on and figure out how you can address any problems together. It’s also a good idea to speak to her teachers and school leadership to make them aware of any issues and determine what can be done to make school a healthy, productive, and positive environment for your girl and her peers.