There are important risk factors for you to know if you are worried your child may be bullied. There are physical, emotional and relational risk factors as well as other risk factors. All of these play an important role for parents to look at with their children.
Physical Risk Factors
If your child looks physically different or is heavier, he or she may be a target for a bully. If he or she speaks differently, or is somehow physically not like everyone else, kids may feel that this is a reason to bully.
Emotional Risk Factors
When children are sensitive or emotionally expressive, they can be at risk for bullying by other kids. When bullied, they can show more emotions, which can lead to more bullying. It can be really important to look at levels of depression with your child, if this is the case. If your child used to be very happy at home and engaged in a lot in conversation, but is now depressed, isolating in their room and making excuses for not wanting to attend school – these may be important emotional risk factors to be aware of. It is important to identify specific patterns of behavior related to depression (rather than single incidences of sadness), such as changes in activities, isolation, and excuses for not wanting to do things. Children can be significantly impacted by depression when they are bullied. It can be a very emotional experience. Losing friends and embarrassment for being bullied may occur.
Relational Risk Factors
A child who is slower to warm, has difficulty developing friendships, is still learning social skills, or who is more socially awkward may have fewer friends and a smaller support system. This child may also have a higher risk of being bullied. If your child has some of these characteristics and is also being bullied, there may be less friends around. You might notice your child is isolating at home and is not social. Explore if your child is making excuses about not wanting to go out and do any activities. You also want to be aware if a friend or friends of your child who used to come over is now never seen in the house anymore. Bullying can affect friendships and change the victim’s status with others at school. It is important to explore see if your child is more isolated than before. Please note that we’re talking about a pattern of behavior, not a single time that your child does not want to leave his or her room.
Other Risk Factors
Any differences that children perceive about your child can be a risk factor for bullying. There can be issues around socioeconomic status, areas that people live in, and culture. These are all areas that may be a risk factor for bullying.
It is important that all-risk factors are kept in mind when thinking about whether your child may be a target for bullying and whether any pattern emerges within these four types of risk factors. To support your child, use open-ended dialogue to explore his or her experience of these differences. Use the 3 E’s (Empathy, Empowerment and Engagement) to empathize with, empower, and engage your child in helpful and healing conversations. You can also seek support for these conversations (and for your child) from a therapist who is trained in communicating about differences and bullying.
Please feel free to contact Danielle Matthew at the Empowerment Space if you’re concerned that your child is being bullied: (818) 267-4282. You can also learn more about the Empowerment Space program at www.empowerment.space.