How to talk to kids about bullying

(Creative Commons)

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – Students are heading back to school. While most students are typically excited, school can be a nightmare for those who are targeted by bullies.

More than one out of every five students reports being bullied, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. The percentage of students who have experienced bullying at some point in their live has nearly doubled from 2007-2016.

Heather Wallace, an assistant professor at the University of Tennessee and human development specialist says the trick to creating an open dialogue about bullying is to keep communication going. She says parents should focus on conversation openers, not closers.

“You want to be what I call an ‘askable parent’ and you do that by asking open ended questions,” said Wallace. “‘How is your day’ is great, except how about asking ‘how did you feel about your day.’ It’s a little bit different, but it can kind of give you some insight.”

She also says notice changes in behavior, such as your child withdrawing from an activity. She says talking to other parents can be a helpful resource.

If the situation is reversed, Wallace said the first thing parents should do is pause and think about what’ s happening in your child’s life. The next step is talking to your child.

Is there any form of distress? Is there something happening in school that they may be struggling with academically or maybe they’re not doing as well at sports,” says Wallace. “Ask them what’s going on because what I like to say is ‘hurt people hurt people.’ If they’re feeling distressed inside, then it might be coming out in that way.”

A lot has changed since most parents were in school. As society, we’ve traded Pogs and Polly Pockets for smartphones and PlayStations.¬†With the variety of social media apps and networks, it can be difficult to keep up with the trends, but Wallace says it is important to monitor what’s going on.

“It’s also good tor realize that it can happen in lots of different ways. It’s not just text messaging, Snapchat or Facebook, but things can even happen in gaming chat rooms and that sort of thing, so be aware of all of the different areas. Have an active roll in your child’s technology use and talking about that,” said Wallace.

If your child witnesses bulling, Wallace says it is important to talk to your child about not only staying safe, but also empowering your child to talk to a caring adult.

For more information on signs of bullying and how to talk to your child, Wallace recommends visiting cyberbulling.org. She says the website is a great resource.

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