Back to school. An exciting time punctuated by new teachers and classes, fresh books and school supplies, resuming friendships and extra-curricular activities. For the child who has experienced bullying, however, it can be the worst time of the year.

It sure was for me.

Every year, Id hope maybe, it would be different. Throughout elementary and high school, bullying was a big part of my experience. By 10th grade I even had a bully on the public bus I would take to and from school.

He would sit at the back of the bus with his friends and call me names and say, Whats wrong? Are you scared to sit at the back of the bus? Maybe well just have to follow you home

I remember I would get on and off several stops away from my own stop for fear that he would one day discover where I lived.

This went on for 2 years.

Things got so bad that I became depressed, isolated, and even considered suicide.

As an adult who survived bullying, I became a high school music teacher who focused on building confidence and self-esteem and I, once again, was immersed in an environment where bullying was an everyday reality. I was determined to make a difference for my students.

Here are a few steps you can take to help your child deal with bullying.

1. Listen to your child

Your child will tell you or show you that s/he is being bullied. Listen and notice. If your child tells you whats going on in school, listen. If your child is less communicative, listen all the more. Ask open-ended questions. Wait for answers, but dont force them. If you demonstrate that you are always ready to listen without judgement and without jumping in too quick and potentially embarrassing action, eventually s/he will open up.

Children who are less communicative will show other signs such as not wanting to go to school, feigning illness, and may even show signs of physical injury.

2. Tell someone

Teach your child to tell the adults in charge. Bullies and friends alike parade the ridiculous notion that one shouldnt be a tattletale, which is ideal fodder for people looking to get away with something they shouldnt be doing.

Tell someone. And, if nothing happens, tell someone else. Even in this day and age of bully-awareness, your child may need to tell a number of people before someone actually takes action. After all, its much easier to sweep something under the rug than to address it.

As a parent, tell someone else who your child trusts; teachers, siblings, friends, an older cousin or camp counselor. Inevertold my parents or family. They had absolutely no idea what was going on. While your child may not open up to you, by telling others, you increase the chances of getting support.

3. Travel in groups

Bullies win by isolating their targets. Teach your child to go with a buddy if at all possible to places in which s/he may encounter bullying. Unfortunately, oftentimes a bullys ideal target is the awkward child with few to no friends.

4. Cyberbullying

If your child is being bullied online, there are ways to address it. Do not respond to cyberbullying. Rather, document it. Record dates and times, save screenshots, emails, and text messages. Report cyberbullying to the relevant social media platforms and providers. There are rules against cyberbullying. And there are laws against it too. If the cyberbullying involves threats of violence or the release of private information, report it to law enforcement.

5. Talk about it

Dont wait until it happens to talk about bullying. The truth is your child is experiencing bullying in some way; either as a victim or as a spectator.

Have regular conversations about confidence, self-esteem, behavior, bullies, and bullying.

Pay attention when your child tells you stories about their friends who might be displaying bully-like behavior. Ask questions. Get your childs opinions. Have a discussion.

Kids do well if they can. A bully is simply a child who isnt able to manage something else that is going on in their life. Empower your kids to ask questions when they see someone being a bully to ask if the bully is OK.

6. Celebrate who your child is in all her weird, awkward uniqueness

Bullies are most effective when they target those who already feel uncomfortable in their own skin. Adolescents who feel as if they dont fit in and have low self-esteem are prime targets, which unfortunately is figuratively the very definition of adolescence.

When a child feels worthless and undeserving and feels there is something wrong with him (like I did), he is the least likely to report bullying behavior. Rather, he feels like he deserves it, and all the more so, will do almost anything to hide the source of his shame.

Consider two LGBT youth. One is ashamed of his feelings for the same sex and tries to hide it. Another is very visible and proud, holds hands in public with his boyfriend and advocates on campus for LGBT rights. Whereas the bully may attempt to intimidate each of these students, he will only be successful with the former.

This brings me to the most important point. Parents, you cannot prevent bullying. The best you can do is prevent your child from being vulnerable to bullies. From the day your child is born, your job as a parent is to love your child unconditionally, and to positively and authentically mirror to your child her uniqueness and incomparable worth. A child who knows she is loved for all her weirdness, awkwardness and authenticity cannot be blackmailed into believing less of herself.

Celebrate your child, and teach him to celebrate himself, each and every day. Teach him to pat himself on the back for challenging himself, for learning, for growing and for just being himself. A child who celebrates himself for being just who he is, cannot be bullied into believing something else.