It’s the start of the school year, a joyous time for most kids because they are excited to make new friends, see old ones and, of course, wear their new clothes on the first day of school. Unfortunately for some kids this is a terrifying time, because they see school as a compromising and unsafe place to be. Why? Because they were bullied in the past and fear being bullied again.

Being the victim of bullying can be a huge distraction to kids, and can destroy any enthusiasm they may have about returning to classes. As parents, there some very important and proactive things you can do to help.

The first thing to do is to talk to your kids about bullying.  Ask them what they need in order to feel safe and have an enjoyable back-to-school experience.  Continue this communication as the year goes on. It is vital to have open conversations, so that your child knows that they have your full support. What may seem like an easy situation to deal with for you may be complicated for them to sort through.

Some kids feel pressured to wear the coolest clothes, be a stand-out athlete or be the class clown in order to not be picked on.  However, these goals aren’t realistic for most little ones. Children should not be pressured to live up to anyone’s expectations in order to fit in.  Parents should recognize their child’s strengths and, more importantly, help their child identity their own strengths and cherish them. Instilling confidence in your child goes a long way.

Have a plan of action.  Devise a strategy that will help your child know what to do if they are ever bullied again.  Let them know it is okay to talk to you, their teachers, guidance counselors and/or administrative staff about what’s going on.  Reaffirm with child on a constant basis that help is available.  According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service’s anti-bullying website,“When adults respond quickly and consistently to bullying behavior they send the message that it is not acceptable. Research shows this can stop bullying behavior over time.”  This plan of action will help build their confidence so they know that their parents and school have their back.  When kids know they have support especially from their parents they will be more confident in returning to school.

All of these strategies along with working together persistently can help prevent bullying. Since bullying can be repeated and your child may fear returning to school for this reason, being consistent in your effort as a parent to ensure it stops is key. It may not end immediately; however, with your support as a parent, it can get better.

Audrey Griffin is a wife, mother of four, inspiring educator and parenting lifestyle consultant. Visit her website, check her out on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.