VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - For many parents, the main focus as they send their kids back to class has been keeping students safe from COVID-19.
For some, though, there is another real concern.
About 1 in 5 high school students nationwide report being bullied on school property, according to the CDC.
Stephanie Newman, a Licensed Professional Counselor with Thriveworks in Virginia Beach, says bullying impacts kids much more than adults because their identities are still forming.
"Not just what do I want to be when I grow up, but what kind of a person," said Newman, "so bullying can send the wrong message. Kids can start to internalize these messages of 'I am stupid, I am worthless, people don't like me.'"
It's especially true for those in the LGBTQ community because it can go beyond teasing to violence.
Newman says there are some signs parents can watch out for that may indicate their child is being bullied.
The most noticeable - a sudden change in behavior that seems out of character.
Newman says victims will also sometimes become bullies themselves as a way to protect themselves.
For older kids, she suggests getting someone you trust to approach them.
"Even if you as a parent have some really good advice, a lot of times they're just not willing to hear it because you're the parent, and what I find helpful for teens is some sort of third party, so perhaps a counselor, but sometimes it could be an older sibling, a family friend, some sort of mentor that you think they're just a little bit more open to connecting with," said Newman.
For younger kids, she suggests telling them you've noticed changes and ask how they're feeling.
Newman says even if a child is acting out, be empathetic and avoid shaming or punishing kids.
And make sure to keep the conversation going.
She says one of the biggest complaints she hears from kids is that bullying is only addressed in the moment.
You can find more resources at stopbullying.gov.