I am the person you bullied at school,
I am the person who didn’t know how to be cool,
I am the person you alienated,
I am the person you ridiculed and hated.
I am the person who sat on her own,
I am the person who walked home alone,
I am the person you scared every day,
I am the person who had nothing to say.
I am the person with hurt in her eyes,
I am the person you never saw cry,
I am the person living alone with her fears,
I am the person destroyed by her peers.
I am the person who drowned in your scorn,
I am the person who wished she hadn’t been born,
I am the person you destroyed for ‘fun’,
I am the person, but not the only one.
I am the person whose name you don’t know,
I am the person who just can’t let go,
I am the person who has feelings too,
And I was a person, just like you – Laura (Bullying UK)
Books, newspapers and magazines argue that our children are going through a “friendship crisis.” While our children’s relationships are definitely different than when we grew up, in reality, I don’t believe we are facing a friendship crisis. In reality, we are facing a bullying crisis that has permeated our community.
A national survey reported that over forty percent of students say that they are afraid to go to a school bathroom because of bullying. One in seven children in America reports acting as a bully or being a bully victim. Every day, 160,000 students skip school because they fear violence or intimidation. In places where the Internet is used for social networking, students describe cyberbullying through name-calling and verbal attacks.
How do we address the bullying crisis? First, you need to recognize if your child is a victim of bullying. Below are some telltale signs:
* Returns home from school with torn, damaged, or missing clothing.
* Seems afraid of going to school.
* Suddenly begins to do poorly in school.
* Complains frequently of headaches, stomachaches, or other illnesses.
* Has trouble sleeping or frequent bad dreams.
* Appears anxious or suffers from low self-esteem.
How to Stop the Bullying Cycle
Talk to your children. Tell your children that you are concerned about them and that you would like to help them. You can ask direct questions such as, “Are there any kids at school who treat you meanly?” Or indirect questions like, “Are there any kids at school who you really don’t like? Why?” Broaching the topic is the first step towards prevention.
Keep your emotions in check. Of course, you need to empathize with your child, but if you become overly emotional, your child will hesitate before talking to you about it again. Stay calm so that you can act as a supportive figure in your child’s life.
Talk to the staff at your child’s school. Set up an appointment and explain that you are concerned. Ask questions about what you can do and what measures the school can take to prevent bullying. If you are not comfortable talking to your child’s teacher, make an appointment with a principal or the school’s guidance counselor.
Teach your child to walk with confidence. If your child appears confident and walks away from the situation, he is signaling to the bully that the bully cannot hurt him.
Encourage other friendships. Promote true friendships by telling your child to invite other children for play dates or study dates.
After we address the bullying crisis, we can teach children how to make long-lasting relationships. Research shows that children do need friends, however, they do not need tons of friends nor do they need friends to surround them 24/7. Through a child’s interactions with even these one or two friends, he will develop necessary social skills.
What if your child does not even have one or two friends? Is there a way that you as a parent can help? Well, the answer is yes and no. Your child has to want to make friends, but once the desire is there, you can definitely aid in the quest for friendship.
I’d also like to take a minute to discuss what I mean by friendship. For different ages, friendship means different things.
In Preschool (one month to four years) children are observing social interactions to see how to behave in the future. Other children who they get along with and spend a lot of time with are considered friends at this age.
Next, in Early Elementary (five to six years), friends are mostly based on convenience and change abruptly. Children will often change “best friends” weekly at this age.
Then, in Middle Childhood (seven to ten years), children begin to choose their friends based on compatibility and shared interests. Friendships at this stage are based heavily on loyalty.
The last stage of childhood friendship, I will call the Transitional years (ten to twelve): Right before their teenage years, children are starting to recognize changes in their bodies and thoughts. They have a strong sense of self and look for friends who will complement their strengths.