Do you suspect your child's being bullied? Here's what you should do.

Your once highly social teen has recently shown drastic changes in their behavior. Maybe your child doesn’t want to hang out with their friends anymore, they fake illness to avoid going to school or sports practice, they can’t sleep, remain hidden in their room and hardly eat. These are some physical indications that your child may be facing a new kind of bullying.

Bullying has evolved from a physical to a secretive form, also known as relational aggression. Relational aggression is a type of aggression in which harm is caused by damaging someone’s relationships or social status and happens most frequently through online bullying. A bully may spread rumors through social media applications or through group chats and may also include acts of social isolation or exclusion, alliance building and public humiliation. This can go on for months undetected. So what are some steps you can take to help put a stop to this form of bullying?

1.) Listen and Empathize: Before pointing a finger, make sure you listen to your child first. They need you more than anything right now. Listen carefully, ask questions (but don’t ask leading questions) and provide empathy. Many teens don’t tell a parent or trusted adult about the bullying they are facing due to shame and embarrassment. It is important to establish a line of trust with your child by letting them know that you will be there to support them and listen to their experiences.

2.) Document Experiences: It is important to document any proof of bullying because it is impossible for teachers to see everything that happens in a day. In addition to this, once the bullying is reported, there will always be two sides to the story, so having proof will allow you to communicate your child’s experiences clearly in meetings. Make sure not to force any evidence from your child such as screenshots of messages. Instead, let your child know that this evidence will help put an end to the bullying and reassure them that they don’t have anything to feel ashamed or embarrassed about.

3.) Identify a Helpful Resource: It is important for kids to easily identify where they can go to seek help. Online bullying has proven to trigger anxiety and depression and in some cases, thoughts of suicide. Students need to be able to identify a safe place on or off their school campus, and parents should contact a licensed mental health practitioner for further help in order to discuss the child’s feelings and assist them with coping.

4.) Don’t Force a Meeting Between the Bully and the Victim: Forcing a meeting between the bully and the victim can exacerbate feelings of anxiety and shame in the victim. The victim may also retract their story to avoid this kind of confrontation. The best way to speak to the bully and the victim to hear both sides of the story is individually in order to avoid conflict and muddled accounts of what happened.