We all want our children to be happy and to have good friends. With busy after-school schedules, we may miss signs of bullying from classmates, teammates, or neighbors. That’s understandable. But what used to take weeks or months to spread amongst their peers, now takes mere seconds on social media. And kids today don’t have friends that they hang out with as soon as they’re home from school.  They spend most of their after-school hours by themselves in their bedrooms. So the signs are easy to miss.

Strike up conversations while driving in the car. Kids feel less threatened when they don’t have to give eye contact; and you’ll have them as a captive audience so they’ll be more inclined to talk. Ask questions that require dialog and not yes-or-no responses. Sometimes telling them something about yourself demonstrates that it’s a safe place to share.

Check their social media interactions. Yes, you are the parent, and you are entitled to know what is going on in their lives until they turn 18. You’ll be privy to who they are talking to, how they are treated, and how they treat others. Unless there is something alarming going on, use this information to monitor their moods and behavior but don’t tell them that you are snooping. If they are in danger, ask them to tell you about the situation and reach out to authorities to get support, if needed.

Granted, kids have off days just as we do. Puberty can turn a sweet child into an obnoxious terror, and that is normal. But pay attention to signs and patterns in their behavior. Your parenting instinct is usually right, so ask questions and snoop around. If they’re harboring fear because someone is threatening them, your love and support can save them. You may need to talk to teachers or school officials, law enforcement, or community members. You may even need to step in to remove your child from the danger by changing schools or even moving to a different neighborhood. It’s our job as parents to be there for them – even when they shun us.