How to talk to your children about bullying

Advice on how to get the conversation started

TUCSON, Ariz. - Bullying can mean back to school anxiety for some students. 

It's an issue many districts continuously tackle, but experts say parents can do a lot to help by getting the conversation started with their children. 

When it comes to talking about bullying with your kids, you might not want to jump right in.

Sheri Bauman, professor of counseling at the University of Arizona, says kids are very reluctant to talk about bullying, for very good reasons. 

She says, for example, ask your child about how their friends are, to possibly get answers about them in a roundabout way. 

"So tell me, I've heard a lot about bullying lately. Do any of your friends ever experience that? What's happening at your school,'" Bauman recommends. "So you're not asking directly about their own experience, but giving them an opening to talk about it."

Bauman says one of the best things you can do as a parent is let your kids know that you're on their side, rather than minimizing how they're feeling.

What may seem trivial to an adult may seem catastrophic to a young person. She says, instead of saying things like, 'It gets better' or 'I was in middle school before, too,' ask how you can help them.

"That you care very much. And you can tell that something is very painful and you want that pain to go away and you'll work with them," Bauman said.

Cyberbullying may be hard for schools to detect, so that's where parents can really step in to help, by starting a conversation this way:

"Say, 'you know, I don't even know how Snapchat works, so I can't be helpful but I'd like to found out. Can we work together on what you might do to protect yourself?'" Bauman says.

Experts say being proactive with bullying, and knowing how to talk to your children may help prevent it from happening. 

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