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Your child would tell you if he’s being bullied, right? Maybe not. “It’s painful to say, ‘I’m being targeted,’” says Cynthia Lowen, producer and writer of the documentary film, Bully, and co-author of the forthcoming book The Essential Guide to Bullying. While there’s more bullying awareness than ever (who hasn’t heard about the bullied bus matron?), children still fear their parents’ response to the harassment can make the situation worse, says Lowen. Another reason kids may keep this info to themselves: “They may worry that admitting they’re victims will disappoint their parents,” says Jerry Weichman, PhD, a licensed psychologist specializing in teens and tweens at California's Hoag Neurosciences Institute in Newport Beach, CA, and author of How to Deal. That’s why it’s important to know how to spot the signs of bullying, which aren’t as obvious as you’d think. Here are some surprising red flags to look for.

1. Sharing bullying euphemisms

When you ask your child about his day, and he says there's "drama" at school or kids were "messing around," it could be code for "I'm being bullied," explains Cindy Miller, a New Jersey–based licensed school social worker, psychotherapist and Lowen’s co-author on The Essential Guide to Bullying. If you hear that language often, ask for specifics, she suggests. For instance: “When you say ‘messing around,’ did anyone get physical with you? Did someone spread a rumor about you or call you a name? How did you feel when the ‘drama’ occurred?”

If your child still doesn’t open up, tell him the difference between reporting and tattling. “Reporting is stating that someone’s hurting you and you’re trying to get help. Tattling is trying to get someone in trouble,” says Miller. This way, he knows there’s nothing wrong about giving facts.

2. Coming home hungry

Before you assume your little luncher is simply sick of PB&J, consider what else might be going on in the cafeteria. Perhaps another student is taking his food. Or maybe your child is giving away items voluntarily to become better-liked—or avoiding eating because he fears being ridiculed about his weight or what he’s eating, says Miller. Again, asking direct questions in a non-threatening way here is key, says Lowen. Try: “Who did you sit with at lunch today? Did you like your food? What did you and your friends talk about?”

3. Coming home from school late

You may think he's hanging out with friends, but he may be taking a longer route home or skipping the bus to avoid bullies, says Miller. A change in after-school routine is how Tara Kennedy Kline of Shoemakersville, PA, realized something wasn’t right. “He started calling me from the bus and asking me if his older buddies could come to our house after school,” she says. Normally, her son was only allowed to have friends over after homework was done, and not at all if his parents weren’t home. “Blatantly disregarding our rule was a red flag for us,” she says. Soon after, she learned about a bullying incident that happened on the bus. So trust your instincts and dig deeper if your child does something out of character.