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How to Address Bullying at School

LyraEDISServletResearch shows that 20-40% of children are bullied in some way. Whether bullying is verbal, physical, or done online it is a very real problem that can happen in any school, even among young school-age children. A safe and secure environment is key for the Essential Element of Belonging, one of the foundations of 4-H positive youth development.  Being educated about what bullying is, knowing how to spot the signs of bullying, and learning what to do if your child is affected by this behavior can help parents address bullying if and when it happens.

How to recognize bullying- Bullying can take several forms. It can be observable or secretive behavior.

Observable Behavior: Secretive Behavior:
  • Intimidation and threats.
  • Name calling, insults, and comments about disability, gender, and race.
  • Teasing about personal characteristics or sexual harassment.
  • Physical assault, tripping, hitting, pinching and other physical abuse.
  • Destruction of property, demanding money or other possessions.


  • Rejecting, excluding, and isolating victims from others.
  • Spreading rumors and other public humiliation.
  • Manipulating friends and relationships, passive aggression.
  • Passing damaging notes or posting threatening or damaging emails or web material.
  • Blackmailing, harassment, and dangerous dares.

Left unaddressed, bullying can cause depression and lasting psychological damage to the victim. It can result in poor attendance or psychosomatic illnesses. Violence can escalate into serious property damage, and injuries to students and adults. Bullying at school also affects others who are not involved directly but who simply witness or are aware of mistreatment of another student. These students may suffer from fear and concern about their schoolmate who is targeted. They may feel guilt but also may fear the bully so much that they do nothing to help. Worse, they may become offenders themselves because they fear the perpetrator will target them.

Bullies tend to seek out victims who:

  • Are unable to defend themselves.
  • Have little social support, or few friends.
  • Are not involved in extra-curricular activities.
  • Are low achievers in academics or sports.
  • Are not popular or focused on by adults in the school.
  • Have less developed social skills.
  • Have difficulty communicating.
  • Have low-self esteem or are unassertive.

Know the warning signs of bullying- It is not uncommon for a child who may be the victim of school bullying to be reluctant to tell his or her parents out of shame or fear. Children fear that the adults will not be able to help them or that they may make the situation worse. They may also believe the bully will retaliate against them or their friends. If you suspect that your child may be a target of school bullying, look for these signs:

  • Sadness, anxiety, difficulty sleeping or eating, temper or emotional outbursts, picking on younger siblings.
  • Unexplained bruises, cuts, or damaged clothing or school supplies.
  • Fear of school, not wanting to go to school, or sudden drop in school performance.
  • Dislike of recess and avoidance of unsupervised school areas such as the bathroom, despite the need to go.
  • Withdrawal from friends and family, fear of parent communication with teachers.
  • Complaints of physical problems without a medical reason.
  • Any abrupt behavior change or sudden lack of self-esteem.

What Parents Can Do to Prevent and Stop Bullying –Parents are the key to preventing and stopping bullying. Here are a few ways that parents can help respond to bullying.

Stay connected with your child. The more you know about your child’s friends and their interactions with classmates and peers, the more likely you are to spot any changes in their social circle. Talk with your child every day about specifics at school and extracurricular activities such as what the best or worst part of their day was. This is also an important way to establish good communication with your child so that they can come to you when they have a problem.

Explain to your child what bullying is. Children understand that hitting or pushing another child is wrong, but you can also explain that other forms of bullying, such as excluding or ignoring someone, can also be hurtful.

Tell children what to do in case they experience or witnesses bullying. Talk with your child about the basics of what to do if they encounter hurtful behavior directed toward them or someone else. Tell your child to alert a teacher right away if they see or are subject to bullying behavior, and that it is important to stop someone from getting hurt.

Teach a child the importance of empathy. Research has shown that emotional intelligence and empathy skills may be even more important for success in life than intellectual intelligence. A child who is able to understand what it may feel like to be bullied and can understand and regulate their own emotions is less likely to engage in that kind of behavior.

Set a good example. Do you ever make fun of other people or gossip about others in front of your child? Have you ever spoken rudely to a waiter at a restaurant or to a store clerk in a shop? Even if you think your children are not listening or observing your behavior, the fact is that kids learn a lot about how to conduct themselves from watching their parents.

Talk to your school about what programs are being used to deter bullying. If you suspect that your child may be the victim of school bullying, talk to your child’s teacher about your concerns. Ask the teacher to watch out for problems and notify the school principal and counselor about your concerns as well.

As parents and volunteers, it’s our job to provide youth with a safe environment where they can learn and grow. For more resources about bullying, contact your local UF IFAS Extension Office, or download some of our other resources:

Talking About Bullying

Bullying and Children with Disabilities

Bullying Related to Lack of Time with Dad


Outcomes of Bullying

Parent’s Role in Bullying Behavior

Teens and Sexual Harassment: Making a Difference

4-H Opportunities at School

4-H embryology is a great way for school youth to learn about STEM and agriculture

4-H embryology is a great way for school youth to learn about STEM and agriculture

For more than 100 years, 4-H clubs have been (and still are) the backbone of our youth development program. But did you know that 4-H also provides opportunities for youth to participate in programs during and after school? Not all youth have access to transportation to and from club meetings. 4-H school programs are a great way for those youth to glean the benefits of 4-H and to learn about other opportunities to be involved longer term.

Some examples of 4-H School programs offered in the 4-H Panhandle include:

Sometimes school programs such as 4-H Embryology or 4-H Tropicana Public Speaking are taught by teachers, using 4-H curriculum and resources with support from the 4-H Extension Agent. Other programs are coordinated with a team of volunteers and 4-H staff (such as 4-H Ag Awareness or Ag Literacy Week). County Extension offices offer training, curriculum, and equipment for teachers and volunteers interested in leading 4-H programs at local schools. In addition, these programs receive support from extension agents and UF IFAS specialists with subject matter expertise, so you can be sure that youth are receiving the most up to date, non-biased information available.

If you have skills that you would like to share with the next generation, consider partnering with your local school and 4-H program. To find out which opportunities are available in your area, contact your local UF IFAS County Extension Office or visit

Tips for Preparing your Child Emotionally for a New School

Back to SchoolAs summer break comes to a close, many children will be experiencing changes in their school experience at an entirely new school. Be sure to make the transition as easy as possible by talking with your child about the positive experiences they may have this new school year. Below are a few tips on how to help you and your child adjust to such a big change with the least amount of stress.

Introduce yourselves to the new school:
• Make sure that the new school expects you: register your child before the first day of class
• If possible, visit your child’s new school: try to meet the office staff, principal, and teachers before the transition to establish a personal connection and to help them prepare for your child’s arrival
• Some schools have “welcome packets” to give to new families; if not, try to get basic information, such as what time the school day begins and ends, the procedure for lunch (can your child buy lunch, does the school provide snacks, etc.), transportation procedures (what’s the bus schedule), and information about health services and emergency procedures
• Try to meet other school families; if you have an elementary school-aged child, see if you can arrange a “play date” with another child in the same grade (preferably before the first day of school.)
• Become involved in your child’s new school. Consider joining the PTA, or volunteering at the school; the more involved you are, the more your child will feel like his or her school is important to you and the more connected he or she will feel.

Help your child adjust:
• Make sure your child understands the reasons for changing schools; if you have an older child, try to give him or her as much “advance notice” as possible so that he or she will have time to adjust to the idea
• If time allows, show your child his or her new school and the surrounding neighborhood; see if you can arrange for a student to show your child around the school and introduce him or her to teachers and staff; some schools have a “buddy system” or other ways of helping your child meet other children in the school
• Make sure the school has what it needs to make the best decisions concerning your child’s classroom placement and academic and social needs; confirm that the new school has obtained your child’s educational, health, and other relevant records
• Be patient. It is perfectly normal for a child to feel anxious, scared, or irritable during times of transition. Let your child know that you understand that this is difficult; take the time to listen to his or her concerns, and spend time together while your child develops new school connections and friendships
• Stick to your routine. If rapid changes have left your child upset, knowing what’s expected at home can provide a comforting calmness. Encourage your child to feel good during this stressful time: encourage (or enforce) a schedule including a regular bedtime and a healthy breakfast.
• If your child had a negative experience at his or her last school, speak positively about the fresh opportunity that the new school presents. Help your child develop new goals for school success
• If your child is young, or is particularly nervous, consider accompanying him or her to school for the first few days
• Encourage your child to become involved in school activities, sports, or after school clubs
• Make sure your child has what he or she needs for the first day of school (ask the school for a classroom supply list.) This will make your child feel more included on the first day.
• Help your child identify something good about his or her new school, and offer comfort and reassurance that adjusting to a new school takes time.

One of the most important steps as a parent is to realize that moving to a new school is a very big deal for many children. There may be a few bumps in the road along the way, but remember to be patient, understanding and there for your child and he or she will eventually adjust. This adjustment could take up to 6 weeks. If the adjustment continues to be struggle after several months be sure to consult with a school counselor to help with any further assistance.

Do you have a skill or passion that you would like to teach the next generation?  Consider becoming a 4-H volunteer.  4-H offers a wide variety of opportunities for volunteers to make a difference in their community, or even at their school.  Next week, our blog post will focus on ways that you can volunteer through 4-H school programs.  To find out more about volunteer opportunities, contact your local UF IFAS Extension Office, or visit

Smart Strategies for Back to School Savings

Back to school shopping can be a teachable moment for your kids about money management

Back to school shopping can be a teachable moment for your kids about money management

In many parts of Florida, school starts in less than a week! Depending on where you live, what school your children attend, and what grade they are in, back to school supplies can cost the average family anywhere from $100 to $500! Keeping this in mind, it is time to start thinking about a strategy for your back to school shopping. The good news is, the back-to-school tax holiday has been extended from three days to ten days this year!

The tax holiday will begin August 7 and run through August 16. Tax-free items include; clothing, footwear, wallets, bags that cost $100 or less, school supplies that cost $15 or less, and the first $750 of the cost of personal computers and related accessories. Now that you know when and what to shop for, here are some tips on how to shop to make the most of every dollar:

Have a plan

  • Get the supply list for your child’s school and make notes.
  • If you have more than one child, compile a combined list. If your son needs 6 folders and your daughter needs 6 folders, on your list, simply write “12 folders”. This will cut down on the time spent on shopping.

Have a budget

  • Make a list of what your children will need and get an idea of how much it will cost.
  • Use back to school shopping as an opportunity to help your child learn about prioritizing and budgeting. Tell your child how much they have to spend for specific items. For example, they can spend $20 for a backpack, $50 for shoes and $200 for new clothes. If they want the $90 pair of shoes, they will need to get a less expensive backpack or spend less on clothes. This will help you stay within your budget and aid in teaching your children some financial skills. It is a win-win!

Shop around

  • Many stores are having sales right now. If you approach back-to-school shopping like you might do “Black Friday” shopping, you can have a lot of fun with it!
  • Check ads in the Sunday paper for sales on items on your list. Many papers will also have coupons for wipes, paper towels, and other items often found on preschool or elementary school lists. You can also use online coupons, e-coupons, and store loyalty cards for even more savings.
  • Check out stores you may not have considered in the past such as office supply stores, dollar stores, and even thrift stores.

Plan for next semester

  • Now is the time to get all of the supplies you need at a great price. If you find a good deal on some basics, stock up for next semester on items like glue sticks, pens, folders, and notebook paper.

Going back to school can be an expensive time of year; however, it doesn’t have to be with a little planning and budgeting. Put the same energy into back to school shopping that you might do with Christmas shopping. Make it a sport! Remember for next year, at the end of the summer, school is approaching and you can plan for it.  If you are interested in financial management, budgeting, or shopping, consider becoming a 4-H volunteer!  We need volunteers to share their knowledge and skills with youth to teach youth about financial literacy and consumer choices (smart shopping).  If you are interested, contact your local UF IFAS Extension Office, or visit