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With the start of a new year, it’s important to consider ways to discourage bullying. Too many sad stories have come to light regarding bullying –either physical or emotional – that have led to dramatic consequences, sometimes even to the point of suicide in extreme cases. And the term “cyberbullying” has become all too familiar.

Parents need to be alert for signs that their child is a victim – from noting frequent or unusual patterns of bruising to sometimes subtle changes in behavior or academic performance and school avoidance.

Tips parents can offer kids who face bullying:

1. Look the bully in the eye, stand tall and stay calm and simply walk away from a difficult situation.

2. Respond confidently and with a firm tone of voice while looking the harasser in the eye. Effective and appropriate responses include statements such as:  “I do not like what you are doing” or “Please DO NOT  talk to me that way.”

3. Many children are not used to reacting assertively, so it can be very helpful for parents to rehearse scenarios and practice with them what they will say and how they will say it. Your child to should be taught when and how to ask for help from school staff.

4. Encourage kids to make friends with other children and find activities that interest them. Children with loyal friends and regular activities are less likely to be singled out by aggressors.

5. Monitor your child’s social media and texting interactions to identify concerns before dangerous situations arise.

6. When necessary, speak to teachers and administration on your child’s behalf. When a situation is too challenging for your child to handle, don’t hesitate to intervene. Your child deserves a safe school environment.