SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) -- Talking about bullying is hard because there are so many layers to it and no two situations are exactly the same; but with students heading back to school, it may be on the minds of many parents and their kids.
Experts say bullying is not like it used to be.
“The dynamic now is that bullies usually are kids who go to great lengths to make a positive impression in front of adults, coaches, parents and teachers. But then, behind closed doors or where no one can hear, they constantly and continually say belittling, degrading things to a child,” said Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist Dr. Erin Leonard.
Bullying no longer stops at the end of the school day, as there's social media now.
“It really is very, very common. More common than people realize,” Dr. Leonard said.
As a parent, how do you know when your child is being bullied? Dr. Leonard said there could be signs like having trouble sleeping at night, needing extra comfort, losing an appetite or losing interest in something they have been involved in.
“Your child is going to display various signs and symptoms of threat, and where the origin of that threat is located is what takes a little bit of refined exploration,” added Clinical Psychologist Dr. Suzanne Courtney.
If that exploration leads to you believing that your child is being bullied, what do you do? Dr. Leonard said the first thing you need to do is empathize with your child and support them. Then, work together to problem solve.
“What is really important for children is that they are taught at all times, because what your end goal is, is to help your child become a fully functioning, confident, happy, balanced, adult,” added Dr. Courtney.
Dr. Courtney said it's also important to talk to your child because you may want to go to the school, but maybe your child isn't ready for that.
“That would be a child's fear. What I would recommend is to allow your child to talk very fully about what they are afraid of if you were to go to the school,” Dr. Courtney said.
Then, she recommends you problem-solve through that.
“Again, we don't want to take a child who is feeling at the low end of a power relationship and then overpower them in yet another way as an adult," she continued. "We want to help them step up to be an active part of regaining power.”
It may be a good idea to talk to teachers and coaches, and explain the situation. Ask them to keep an eye out especially when the kids don't think they are watching.
If you do plan on going to the school, Dr. Leonard said you need to be prepared.
“You really have to have all of your ducks in a row. You have to be 100 percent sure,” Dr. Leonard said.
As a parent, your job doesn't stop with your child. It continues by trying to help the one doing the bullying too. They have a very fragile self-esteem and identity.
Dr. Courtney recommends that you try to figure out how to even out the relationship between the two kids. She says you may even meet with the child and parent to discuss what the problem is and continue to check in with the parent.
Dr. Leonard said if you do that, make sure the bully is taking responsibility for their actions. If they aren't, she says meeting could inflate the situation. Dr. Leonard strongly recommends the bully seek counseling.