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Is Your Child Being Bullied?

Once upon a time, your son couldn't wait to get to school in the morning. He insisted on being the first one at the handball courts. Lately, though, you can barely get him out the door. Some days, he doesn't want to go at all. "My stomach hurts," he complains. "Can I just stay home today?"

Is he being bullied?

It's possible, says Joel Haber, clinical psychologist and author of Bullyproof Your Child for Life: Protect Your Child from Teasing, Taunting and Bullying For Good. "Bullying is when one or more kids intentionally hurt another kid to increase their own status or power, at the expense of someone else," explains Haber. But not all inappropriate socializing is bullying, he cautions, and it's your job as a parent to make that distinction. Kids like to tease. But there are ways to tell if it's going too far.

RELATED: Is your kid the bully? How to tell, and what to do

Here are some changes to look out for:

  • Unexplainable injuries
  • Lost or destroyed clothing, books, electronics or jewelry
  • Frequent headaches or stomach aches, feeling sick or faking illness
  • Changes in eating habits, such as suddenly skipping meals or binge eating. (Kids may come home from school hungry because they did not eat lunch.)
  • Difficulty sleeping or frequent nightmares
  • Declining grades, loss of interest in schoolwork or not wanting to go to school
  • Sudden loss of friends or avoidance of social situations
  • Feelings of helplessness or decreased self-esteem
  • Self-destructive behaviors such as running away from home, harming themselves or talking about suicide

(List courtesy of the U.S. Department of Education)

RELATED: What to do when someone else's kid is acting up

Of course, not all kids show signs that they're being bullied, but if these seem familiar to you, there are steps you can take to help the bullying stop.

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