Body language can ward off bullying, expert says

Body language can go a long way in helping your kids avoid bullies as they get ready to head back to school.

In short, confidence is key, one expert said.

Behavioral investigator Vanessa Van Edwards said certain body movements, such as youngsters hanging their head down or rolling their shoulders forward, can increase a stress hormone and makes bullies perceive them as weak.

But small adjustments in body language can help reduce stress and increase their confidence, leading bullies to leave them alone.

Inside the classroom, make sure your child isn't trying to disappear at their desk. Van Edwards said shy and introverted children tend to try to make themselves smaller at their desk by placing their hands under their desk, tucking their feet and hanging their head down. For a more confident feeling, she suggests children hold their head up and have their hands on their desktop.

While walking down the hall, students should try to keep their chest and face up. If they hang their head low and don't make eye contact with others, bullies are more likely to view them as easy targets.

On the school bus, Van Edwards suggests kids avoid the back of the bus because the long walk to the back can trigger anxiety for some kids. She also noted that people who sit in seats on the left side of the bus tend to be more confident and feel calmer than those sitting in seats on the right.

But Van Edwards warns parents that body language is contagious, and that's not always a good thing.

"If you're talking to your kids about going back to school and you're shoulders and neck are tense, your kids will pick up on that and mimic your body language," Van Edwards said.

You can read more about Edwards' study here.