In a recent interview, Dr. Lianna Bennett, a psychologist at Alpha Omega Clinic’s Fairfax office, offered warning signs that a child is being bullied at school, and provided steps that parents and educators can take to help children who may be the target of bullying. Dr. Bennett has worked in Catholic schools to prevent bullying and to promote healthy friendships among schoolchildren.

According to Dr. Bennett, some common signs that a child is being bullied include: their refusal to go to school, complaints of stomachaches and headaches (whether real or imagined), unexplained injuries, and missing personal possessions, such as an item of clothing or their lunch.  Children who are bullied may also exhibit low self-esteem or declining performance at school. Children often feel helpless and may not tell their parents that they are being bullied because they believe that their parents will be unable to help.

Dr. Bennett explains that the most important action a bullied child can take is to alert their parents and teachers. Bullying, by nature, is based on a power imbalance. Children who are bullied need the support of their teachers and parents in order to deal effectively with the bully. Children should be instructed to say “stop” in a calm and firm voice, and to walk away. Children should also be told that it is unsafe to fight back and that they should notify an adult of the situation.

Dr. Bennett further explains that the most important action that parents can take is to model kindness and respect in their everyday life.  Children learn how to manage conflict by observing how their parents manage conflict.  Parents can also help their children develop assertiveness and self-confidence.  Providing a safe and nurturing home environment is key to helping children develop the skills they need to manage conflict and stress.

To reach the full interview with Dr. Bennett, please visit our Interviews page under the Resources tab.