How to tell if your child is being bullied

While it may have been considered “character building” in the past, today we know that bullying has significant negative effects on youth. In a 2020 study, a shocking 49% of children ages 9 to 12 years old said they have experienced some form of bullying at school. 14.5% of children in the same age group also reported experiencing online bullying. As a parent, the possibility that your kid might be getting bullied is a scary one. While some kids will tell you that they’re being bullied, many will feel too embarrassed or afraid to come forward. Fortunately, there are things you can be on the lookout for, as well as ways you can proactively - but non-intrusively - deduce if there is a problem.

Signs to look out for

In multiple studies and surveys, children who experience bullying almost always exhibit a decline in their academic performance, making this the most common and prominent sign of trouble. However, it is not the only sign, and there are situations where you may not see this at all. It’s important to stay alert for other, less than noticeable signs:

Younger children may experience out-of-the-ordinary bed wetting and i some cases, age regression.

Older teens may exhibit more extreme signs, such as unusual anger or social avoidance, torn or ripped clothing, sudden bruises, cuts or scratches, and avoidance of school or certain places or activities.

Questions to ask your child

You know your child best. Some kids will respond when asked; but for others, you may need a more subtle approach. Here are some conversation openers for either situation.

Straight forward


Older teens may exhibit more extreme signs, such as unusual anger or social avoidance, torn or ripped clothing, sudden bruises, cuts or scratches, and avoidance of school or certain places or activities.

Questions to ask your child’s teacher

In a perfect world, all bullying would instantly be seen, reported, and dealt with by a child’s teacher. However, bullies often take care to act when they know it won’t be witnessed, so it can be difficult for teachers to know there is a problem. Because of this, your child’s teacher may not have much to report if asked directly about any possible bullying. However, there are questions you can ask that will help you form a more accurate picture of what is going on in your child’s school day:

At many schools, teachers and other faculty take turns monitoring playgrounds and hallways during recess or inter-period times. Ask your child’s teacher if any other staff has observed any bullying by their peers. If none of this helps you find answers, or you are uncomfortable with the answers you were given, do not hesitate to make an appointment with the school guidance counselor and/or school principal to further discuss and address your concerns.

Give your child opportunities for vulnerability & sharing

It is always important to foster a relationship of good communication and support with your child so they know they can come to you with anything. Making it a habit to set aside a designated time each day or each week where you can share feelings and experiences is a wonderful way to keep communication open and welcoming. It’s never too late to start this habit or to have a conversation with your child on the importance of communicating openly and honestly.

Consider professional counseling

Some children will find it harder to bring up these things with their parents, so if you feel like your child is struggling in any way, it’s a good idea to try counseling. This gives them a safe outlet to share things with an impartial third party without fear of judgment or punishment. If their therapist believes they are in danger, they are obligated to report it to you. If you’re in the California or Nevada area and your child has experienced bullying or is having a difficult time opening up to you, Medens Health has therapists for children and teens, ready to help! Reach out to us to book an appointment.


The information provided in this blog is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Reliance on any information provided in this blog is solely at your own risk. Always seek the advice of your physician or a qualified mental health provider with any questions you may have regarding your medical or mental health. If you don’t currently have a therapist, we can connect you with one who is qualified to give you safe, professional, and ethical advice regarding your mental health.

If you or someone you are responsible for is experiencing a medical emergency, is considering harming themselves or others, or is otherwise in imminent danger, you should call 9-1-1 and/or take them to the nearest emergency room.