Early signs and what parents need to know to stop school bullying

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FRANKLIN COUNTY (WSLS 10)-- Studies show that one in four kids will be bullied at some point in their life. As students head back to school, parents and teachers are working hard to stop bullying before it ever starts.

Experts say kids who  are dealing with teasing, harassment, hazing or any kind of bullying aren't learning as well as they should be. Bullying affects them emotionally and socially, leading to issues with adjusting in the classroom, anxiety, depression and problems sleeping.

The bullying can start as early as elementary school, with kids saying things like, "You're not my friend," "I don't like you," or "You can't play with us." If those early behaviors aren't addressed, Ferrum Elementary School Counselor, Stephanie Pendleton, says it can turn into a full-fledged bullying situation by the time they get older.

That's why she says parents need to be aware, looking out for some common signs or changes in their child's personality that could signal something is wrong.

"Communicate with your child and listen to what they say," explains Pendleton. "Look for any changes in behavior, like if they come home and have always liked school but now they don't want to go. Or if they're crying a lot or just acting very different. Then you need to ask them some questions, 'How are things going at school? Who are you playing with? Who are your friends? How are they treating you?'"

If you're worried that something might be off, she suggests talking to your child's teacher. Their teacher can fill you in on how your child is getting along with other kids, who their friends are and if they've noticed any changes.

It's important for parents to be aware, because many kids don't report bullying on their own. Three out of four students who are bullied never tell a parent or teacher because they're embarrassed or don't want to be seen as a tattle tale.

Pendleton says it's important to have conversations with our kids now, as school is starting-- to explain the difference between tattling and telling an adult about a serious situation.

"We try to teach them that in a true case of bullying, someone that is hurting or scaring other people, that's not tattling," she says. "That's a situation where it is a safety issue. We just try to encourage the kids that they need to talk about that to stop the behavior from happening to them and other students as well."

When it comes to making the bully stop, she says each case is different-- but there are some methods she suggests to her students. Sometimes ignoring the bully and simply walking away is the best way to make the bullying stop. In other cases, it's important for the child to address the bully, talking things out to work out the problem. Sometimes just laughing it off and acting like you're not bothered is the best method to stop the teasing.

But if bullying is happening-- the most important thing is that the student lets someone they trust, like a parent or teacher, know what is going on. For national information on bullying and a hotline for help, click here.