October marks National Bullying Prevention Month, a time to focus and raise awareness on bullying.

For many educators and health experts, creating safe and welcoming school environments is a priority.

A spokesperson for USD 259 said the district is joining in on the effort to raise awareness on bullying with events planned later during the month. 

However, experts said it’s also important to talk about bullying at home.

What is bullying?

Dr. Larry Mitnaul, at Via Christi Child Behavioral Health, described it as an “aggressive behavior that is repetitive and involves an imbalance of power,” such as physical strength or popularity.

There are different types of bullying:

  • Physical: Involves hurting a person by hitting, pushing, spitting, etc.
  • Social bullying: This is indirect by spreading rumors or embarrassing someone in public
  • Verbal bullying: Involves saying or writing mean things
  • Cybe rbullying: Sending or posting negative content about someone online

Dr. Mitnaul said parents play a role in bullying prevention. Parents can model what it looks likes to be kind and loving, as well as talk to their child about bullying.

“Parents shouldn’t be shy to talk about it and raise it with kids,” he said. “Talking about bullying doesn’t increase the risk of a child either engaging in being bullied or by bullying other kids.”

Studies show bullying usually starts in middle school and lasts through high school.

There are several warning signs that might indicate a child is getting bullied. It’s important to recognize the signs in order to take action against bullying, said experts.

Parents should look for the following warning signs:

  • Unexplainable injuries
  • Lost or destroyed belongings
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Loss of interest in school or hobbies
  • Feelings of depression or anxiety
  • Self-destructive behaviors

Dr. Mitnaul said a common question parents ask is: “What do I tell me child to do if he/she is getting bullied?”

He doesn’t recommend telling the child to retaliate, or in other words, ‘getting an eye for an eye.’

Dr. Mitnaul said communication is the best option — by standing up to the bully and telling a trusted adult.

If parents or schools don’t address bullying, a child is more at risk for depression or anxiety, according to Dr. Mitnaul.

“A lot of absenteeism from school. A lot of avoidance of things that typically bring them joy,” he said. “As you might imagine, it can shrink the world of a child who was previously growing and thriving, so identifying those things early and getting them the help they need is important.”

Dr. Mitnaul works closely with kids — those getting bullied, as well as those doing the bullying.

There are several signs a child is bullying others:

  • Have friends who bully others
  • Language/behavior is more aggressive
  • Coming home with unexplainable money and new belongings
  • Going to detention or the principal’s office more
  • Don’t accept responsibility for their actions

Experts said if a parent notices their child exhibiting some of the warning signs, it’s important to address the issue.

“When families can take that off the table as something that’s taboo, then it becomes something that we can talk about, strategize, and give kids good tips on how to get better,” said Dr. Mitnaul.

Federal data shows that 20-percent of kids tell a parent or trusted adult if they are being bullied, or bullying others.

For more information about National Bullying Prevention Month, or to learn about bullying, visit stopbullying.gov