Bullying: Signs parents can look for

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) -- Bullying is a serious problem in schools and can harm kids emotionally, socially and physically.

But not all kids who are bullied want to come forward about it.

We asked Say It With Heart about the signs parents can look out for in their own kids.

Say It With Heart is a bullying and violence prevention program through Challenge Discovery Projects that works with students in several Richmond City Public Schools.

Its instructors are very aware of how bullying can impact a child and how prevalent it is.

"We see a lot of teasing, we see a lot of talking about families in a negative way," said Stephanie LaCroix, clinical coordinator at Challenge Discovery Projects.

They teach kids about all kind of bullying -- verbal, physical, social and the ever-growing trend of cyber bullying"Technology is what people are using now," said instructor Caronda Bond. "Periscope, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Yik Yak and Kik. There's a lot."

With more ways to bully, it's even more important for parents to know the signs.

"If you have a child who's typically pretty calm, friendly, outgoing and you notice that they're suddenly withdrawn, quiet, definitely reluctant to go to school is a big sign," said LaCroix.

LaCroix says the opposite change in behavior could also be a sign -- being overly aggressive or using language they might not normally use.

"That might mean they're picking it up at the school or those are things they're hearing and they're repeating," she said.

LaCroix notes other possible signs are a sudden change in your child's friends or appetite or if they're experiencing bad dreams.

Instructor Tiffany Goodman says the it's important for parents to recognize the signs because bullying can have a wide-ranging influence.

"It can impact families, it can impact communities, but more so it can really stunt learning in a classroom setting because the focus is no longer learning," said Goodman.

But the Say It With Heart instructors say there are things parents can do, and it starts with asking open-ended questions to get your child to talk.

"What happened at school today? How was your day? Tell me about your day," suggested instructor Travon Robinson. "Probe and dig deeper into the day-to-day activities of their child."

Robinson said parents should also let their children pursue their interests, which can help build confidence, they should get involved with the schools and be aware of what their kids are doing digitally.

"Make sure that we are blocking things that our children don't need to see, and make sure that we're seeing what they're saying and what people are saying to them," said Robinson.

LaCroix says it might be a tough conversation to have with a child, but it's one worth having; even if your kid isn't being bullied, they could help someone who is.

"It's in the schools, it's in the community. They're going to be around it and they're going to see it," she said. "Children need to know what to do and how to help."

To learn more about Say It With Heart, click HERE.

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