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Many professionals struggle to know the best way to find out if a youth is actually being bullied, how and by whom. We have some suggestions we hope will help:

  • Ask gentle questions such as:
    • You sure are hungry these days. Have you been eating your lunch?
    • Your shirt is torn. Did someone do that to you?
    • Where is your cell? Did someone take that from you?
    • Your school books look dirty. How did that happen?
    • You are pretty late today? Did you take the bus like usual?
    • Your grades took a nose dive. Let’s talk about what’s going on.
  • Watch the youth’s body language and reaction when you ask these questions. If you know your youth well, you will probably notice that something is up.
  • If your youth doesn’t disclose that anything is wrong, make an appointment with one or more adults who are in frequent contact with the youth when you aren’t around, usually teachers or other school staff.
  • If you have a good relationship with your youth’s closest friends, you might want to contact their parents and get permission to talk with those friends about what might be going on with your youth.
  • Make certain to reassure your youth that no matter what she or he is going through, you are always there, always ready to listen and help.
  • Let them know that if something is wrong, you will help them find a solution.

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Dr. Chris Downs has devoted much of his professional career to improving services and outcomes for older, at-risk youth. Chris is President of The Downs Group LLC, based in Seattle and has the pleasure of working with many talented professionals in child welfare and allied areas including his company Associates.