Most children will experience some form of bullying in their lives. They might be the victim, aggressor, or just a witness. Children who witness bullying can experience the same trauma as the victims themselves. All these kids involved in bullying are at a higher risk of depression, anxiety, or other negative mental health issues.

Parents can help raise awareness by talking to their children about bullying.

Listed below are five things to consider when broaching the subject:

1.Don’t wait.

Talk with your child about bullying before it occurs. Be proactive! Safeguard your family against bullying. One way you can do this is to maintain open lines of communication with your children. Listen to the things that are important to them, and let them know they can always come to you if they are struggling with anything. Make your home a place of inclusion, empathy, and support.

2.Don’t count on your kid to speak up.

An astounding number of children choose to be silent if they are experiencing problems with bullying. This choice may stem from fear of retaliation, or that they’ll be labeled a “tattle-tale”. It’s possible they could feel embarrassed that this is happening to them, or possibly feel like it’s their fault or that they deserve it. Another reason that kids don’t speak up is that they don’t have an adult they feel like they can trust.

Make sure your kid knows you’re there for them, but don’t assume they’ll immediately come running if another child is bullying them. Instead, watch for signs that they might be experiencing this.

3.Watch for signs.

Be on the lookout for warning signs in your child. They can look like:

  • unusual mood swings
  • changes in eating or sleeping patterns
  • avoidance of social activities
  • and increase in emotional sensitivity
  • unusual academic difficulties
  • unwillingness to go to school
  • increased complaints of physical ailments (a headache, stomachache, etc.)
  • unexplained bruises or other injuries

Be aware of your child’s online activity. Cyberbullying is an easy and thoughtless way to tear someone down. It can also easily go undetected if you aren’t on the lookout.

Nobody knows your kid better than you, so don’t be afraid to trust your gut if you think something is up. If you notice any symptoms of self-harm or suicidal thoughts, take them very seriously. Take immediate action and call for professional help.

4.Be a good listener.

If your child does come to you and reveal a bullying issue, the very best thing you can do is listen. Your automatic reaction should be to believe your child unless you have a very good reason not to. Let them know you hear and understand them by repeating back to them a summary of what they said. You can express empathy through responses that include “I’m so sorry this is happening.” or “That must be very scary for you.” Remind your child that they do not deserve this, nor is it their fault.

Unless there is an imminent need for you to step in, you must resist the urge to swoop in and save them. Rather, you should be an ally to them and offer your support instead of fighting their battles for them. Your job as a parent is to equip your child to address the situation in a safe and meaningful way.

5.Be on their side.

You can offer your child some instruction and practical help. Children are most likely to be bullied when they are alone, rather than with a group of friends. A practical way you can help your child is to help them make plans that reduce their time spent alone. Additionally, bullies like victims who are prone to crying or showing fear. Help your child practice not showing those responses.

If need be, coordinate with teachers or administrators at your child’s school to ensure your child’s safety. Reassure your child that they can ask for help from the adults at their school if they need it.

Resist the impulse to encourage your kid to ignore the bully. Ignoring a bully is not often a viable solution in situations where the abuse is ongoing. And whatever you do, do not encourage your child to fight back! Fighting back often backfires and can result in further and more severe injury to your child.