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Bullying Behavior: What Can Parents Do?

November 15, 2016

This is the second of a two-part series on bullying behavior. The first article presented information for educators.

If you’re raising a child with special needs, you may have concerns about bullying. Students with disabilities can experience bullying at higher rates than other students. It’s important to watch for warning signs of bullying, as well as know how to help if bullying behavior affects your child.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services suggests these possible signs a child is being bullied:

  • Comes home with torn, damaged or missing pieces of clothing, books or other belongings

  • Has unexplained cuts, bruises and scratches

  • Has few, if any friends

  • Seems afraid of going to school, walking to and from school, riding the school bus or taking part in organized activities with peers

  • Has lost interest in school work or suddenly begins to do poorly in school

  • Appears sad, moody, teary or depressed when he or she comes home

  • Complains frequently of headaches, stomachaches or other physical ailments

  • Has trouble sleeping or has frequent bad dreams

  • Experiences a loss of appetite

If something seems “not right” with your child in any of these ways, the first step is to find out more. If your child is able to verbalize their worries, talk with him or her. Children can be hesitant to share about bullying experiences. The important thing is to get them talking and remain patient and supportive. When your child tells you about a situation, try some questions like these to help define the problem:

  • Did what happened hurt, either your body or your feelings?

  • Has a child done this to you more than once?

  • Is the child doing this to you on purpose?

  • Do you want it to stop?

  • Are you able to get this to stop on your own or do you need my help?

If the response to one or more of these questions is “yes,” the more likely the behavior would be considered bullying. Write down what your child has reported to you: the names of the children involved, where and when the bullying occurred and what happened. It’s also important to reassure your child the bullying is not his or her fault, that no one deserves to be bullied and that all students have the right to feel safe at school. If your child isn’t able to describe what has happened, make a note of the behavior changes you’ve noticed and when they began.

Contact your child’s school right away with your concerns. Under Iowa law, your school district will have an anti-bullying/anti-harassment policy. Ask your child’s teacher or school counselor what the next steps will be to address what your child has reported to you.

For more parent information on preventing and addressing bullying behavior, check out this online presentation from the Heartland AEA Family & Educator Partnership, podcast from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and handout from the National Bullying Prevention Center.

picture of Kate Boonstra

Kate Boonstra is a Family & Educator Partnership Coordinator at Heartland AEA.

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