Wayne County Family and Children First Council and Anazao Community Partners have teamed up for a county-wide conversation with a panel of experts about how to identify if your child is being bullied or is bullying others, and how to help children who are dealing with anxiety. This free event, open to all interested Wayne County residents, will be held Thursday, May 3 at the Wayne County Public Library in Wooster.

The goal is to help parents understand what is going on at school and the community regarding bullying and the anxiety it creates in children. This means both the child who is being bullied and the child who is doing the bullying. Both children are suffering.

By decreasing the severity and frequency of bullying incidents our children — both the bullied and the bullier — can lead to happier, healthier lives with reduced stress. That, in turn, benefits our entire community.

The phrase "it takes a village to raise a child" has become overused, but it does reflect reality. We all need to know what causes bullying, and what we need to do to stop it. This problem is not going away until we all take a stand against it. This is not a "school problem." We cannot expect the schools or law enforcement or other families to take care of this problem, this is a community problem.

We need to know what is bullying versus children just not getting along. Years ago bullying was taunts of "you dummy." Today's bullying goes far beyond a verbal taunt. It is a constant barrage of negative verbal and written messages about a person as well as unflattering or lewd pictures (often digitally altered) that lead to humiliation of the targeted person.

This is not just "boys-will-be-boys" or "all-teenage-girls-have-these-whose-best-friend-is-whose" moments. Bullying is vicious, targeted, emotional — and sometimes physical — assault.

Social media makes it easier to bully. In many cases the bullying is anonymous; just a name, usually fake, on a posting on one of the many social media sites. You don't have to look at your victim so there are few to no consequences, less repercussions and no guilt.

Children today are almost continually in contact with others on social media. Bullying can come at them at any moment, around the clock. The constant anxiety from wondering what they will find the next time they use their phone or go on the computer is staggering.

Bullying affects children from all socio-economic groups, all neighborhoods and all races. It is likely that a child you know, you love, is being bullied. Just because they haven't told you doesn't mean it isn't happening.

If your child is the one doing the bullying, then you need to know what is going on in their life. Happy, secure children don’t use their time bullying. You need to find out what need they are meeting by being vicious to other children.

This meeting isn't meant to beat up on school districts, law enforcement or communities. The purpose is to help children and strengthen families by giving them the tools and resources to help the children in our community. If you are a school employee, a church group, a coach, service group, club, community member or family who wants healthy, productive children in our community, please come to this important meeting.

Mrs. Theil is a child advocate in Wayne and Holmes counties. She can be reached at BeverlyVT@aol.com