My husband would be horrified if he knew I even uttered “preparing for the new school year” in July. He’s been out of school for quite a while now but he still goes pale when he sees those “Back to School” signs. Seriously, he almost gets sick.

In some parts of the country, there’s plenty of summer left but here’s something to ponder as you sit around the pool or go camping or traveling or just hanging out reading a book in a nice cool place:

What can be done to improve my child’s school’s climate?

(What the heck does “school climate” mean? In a nutshell, it means “is the school friendly, safe, and a nice place to go?”)

Schools need parents to help. Article after article about bullying and cyber bullying discuss the responsibility of schools. Schools most definitely have to kick it up a notch when it comes to addressing peer to peer abuse. It can’t be effectively done, though, if parents aren’t solidly on board.

So much can be done to prevent bullying in the younger grades. It just makes sense to start early and set the expectation of how kids treat others in the classroom, schoolyard and online.

Here are some basics that EVERYONE with young kids going to school can make their responsibility:

• Teach your own children how to relate to others in a kind way.

• Tell them to be nice to the “new kid.”

• Compliment them when you catch them treating others, including their siblings, well and tell them that’s what leaders do.

• Conversely, if you catch them in the act of bullying others, there should be swift and consistent punishment.

• Be on the lookout for good books, DVDs and other programs that teach tolerance.

• Talk to your school PTA about making those books, DVDs, etc. available in the classroom.

• When you child starts school, don’t do anything as a parent that makes other parents and kids feel left out, including handing out invitations when not everyone is included.

• Encourage your child to develop different groups of friends.

• Watch out for other children, not just your own.

• Teach them what being an “upstander” means. It’s someone that sticks up for others and upstanders are heroes. For example, if they hear kids call other kids names like “stupid,” “fat,” “ugly,” etc. they should either tell an adult or if they feel brave, tell the bullies to stop.

Bullying will always be an issue but it’s making sure that the balance in a school is generally nurturing. It starts with ONE and then spreads.

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