On Valentine’s Day last year, we sent our kids off to school with smiles on their faces. Sure, they were ready to get their cards, but what they really wanted was the CANDY that awaited them during their classroom parties.

We were pretty shocked when our daughter slowly came off the bus with her head down dejected and upset. After many attempts at getting a reason behind her emotions, she finally burst out, “Two boys took my Valentine’s candy on the bus ride home!” We were heartbroken for her. Our daughter was bullied. In our family-friendly school district, our sweet kindergartener was a victim of bullying.

This just goes to show that anyone can be bullied, regardless of school district. Anyone can be bullied in public school, private school—and yes, even Christian school. Recent statistics tell us that one out of every six kids are bullied regularly. Almost half of those who are being bullied have been victimized for over a year. And every day in the United States 160,000 kids stay home from school for fear they may be bullied. 160,000. Yes, you read that right.

Bullying is getting much needed attention throughout schools, sports clubs, and other extra-curricular activities. But with the growing trend of cyber-bullying, schools and clubs can only do so much.

When we Lead Small, we live life together with a group of kids. We aim to “Be Present” with the kids in our circle to know them at their best and worst. As we get closer to them, we’ll know when something seems off. We may not know what it is exactly, but we know that something is wrong.

Most kids are afraid to talk about being bullied because it makes them they feel weak or insecure about themselves. They want to put on a front so everyone thinks they’re strong and can stand up for themselves. This is why we need to BE PRESENT and be aware of some of the most-common warning signs of bullying. Here are a few:

  • Unexplainable Injuries
  • Frequent headaches or stomach aches, feeling sick, or faking illness
  • Loss of interest in school, church or extra-curricular activities that used to give them a sense of joy
  • Sudden loss of friends or avoidance of social situations
  • Feelings of helplessness or decreased self-esteem
  • Self-destructive behaviors such as running away from home, harming themselves, or talking about suicide.
  • Feeling stressed or anxious even about routine events and situations
  • Aggression to compensate for feeling weak
  • Appearing to be alone most of the time

Kids can have bad days and will show some of these behaviors regardless of being bullied. As you see patterns of these behaviors form in your circle, be sure to talk with your kids and those in leadership positions who can help you navigate this difficult time in a child’s life. The very first step in dealing with bullying is identifying the warning signs!

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