So, in a world where bullies exist without logic and people you love are hurt and sometimes changed forever because of it, what do you do. I have come across plenty of people, in various age groups who simply believe that bullying is not an issue and it is being blown all out of proportion. You would be hard pressed to convince me of that. I lived through it forty years ago and it deeply effected me. I spent years dealing with the aftermath alone. It effected my self esteem and how I handled the people in my life for years.
So what can we do? First and foremost, spend time with your child. Help them talk about how this makes them feel and constantly reassure them. If for any reason you feel like you are not getting through to them, get them counseling. There is no shame in that. We as parents need to recognize when something is beyond our abilities. Your child comes first. Besides myself, two of our children went to counseling because of bullying.
As a former Board Member for a school district, I can tell you that it is very frustrating to deal with schools regarding this issue. In my opinion, schools in general have mishandled bullying. Number one, the legal definition of bullying states that the "event" must have happened multiple times. I heartily disagree. Once is enough for me. Why should any child feel unsafe at school. If it happens just once, there is a good chance that your child will start looking over his or her shoulder all the time, waiting for the second "event".
Schools now want a report filed. This is not necessarily a bad thing, it starts a paper trail at the very least. The problem with it is that a lot of administrators don't believe in it and/or don't even know that the form exists. As a Board Member/President I was to receive a report every six months. One time, there were no incidences. REALLY? Six months later, we suddenly had 26 incidences. The other problem I see with the reports is that it basically perpetuates the idea of "Victims". They encourage people to "tattle" but then offer no solution.
In my experience it is rare to find an administrator or a staff member who believes that bullying is real and is willing to do more than just accept a report. Get ready to roll up your sleeves and be a hardcore advocate for your child.
Okay, so still back at the beginning, what is wrong with me, my kids, my friend that I/we/they get targeted by bullies. Absolutely nothing. What I have found in reading, talking, watching is that there is no one reason why someone gets targeted. It is generally random. The bully or bullies do their thing and move on to someone else for a completely different reason. It is not because you are too fat, too skinny, too tall, or too short. But - those are the kinds of things you get hit with and it makes you feel like there really is something wrong with you.
I have seen solo bullies and bullies that run in packs. Both are vicious with the "fun" they are having. Again, bullying can be as subtle as a look that makes you feel uncomfortable every time you are around. It can be as simple as a whisper and a giggle between people when you walk into a room. It can become more blatant with remarks made out loud as you walk by or gestures. It can be more physical like being verbally or physically threatened. It can actually be physical harm. The emotional damage is always there.
I have found that bullies get some immediate satisfaction out of what they are doing. In some strange way it makes them feel stronger and better about themselves. I have had numerous conversations with my kids and have told them that the bully is actually the one with low self-esteem. They need to do these things to make themselves feel better than everyone else. They are unable to improve their self-esteem in a healthy way. Having had those conversations with my kids, and having gone through it myself - that does not help you when you are the target.
It also does not help, knowing as I do now that they generally have no clue what they have done to you. I can remember being terrified to go to my class reunion and how sick I felt when that group of girls showed up. My body tensed up and I suppose I was waiting for food to be thrown at me or to hear some nasty comment. Imagine my shock when I was greeted like a long lost best friend!!!
Stay tuned to start talking about what we can do for our kids.
Okay, so I think we can agree that being the "victim" of bullying hurts. It is also definitely one of those times when you can tell your kids that it hurts me as much if not more than it hurts you. I really don't like using the term "victim". We only become victims if we allow ourselves to be victims. We will get to that soon. In the meantime, let's keep building on the core of bullying.
I received some comments on the last entry. One theme that repeats itself is "Why me?". When you are bullied, even if you are a strong Christian person and/or have a great family situation and support, you can't help but wonder what is wrong with you. Am I ugly, am I creepy or weird or gross, do I wear weird clothes? It gets really confusing because a lot of time, the people who bully you were your friends a few weeks ago. You try to figure out what you did to provoke this.
So, at this point, you are sure that you are alone and the only one who has ever had this happen to them and it must be because something is wrong with you. In reality, it is not you at all. If it is your child being bullied, it isn't them either.
What I can tell you next is that bullies are everywhere. I believe that they used to exist mostly in the high school age range. What I know now, is that there are bullies in the workplace - coworkers and bosses. They still exist in high school. Sometimes it is between the students, sometimes it is staff to student, student to staff and even staff to staff. It creeped into the middle school where it can get particularly brutal because of unstable hormones and behaviors during that age. Finally, it is now in the elementary schools.
Girls used to be particularly vicious and "catty" with looks, talking behind your back in front of you, gossiping, isolating. Boys used to be more physical. Beating someone up, threatening. The two groups have now blended with boys exhibiting what used to be girl behavior and vice versa. Nothing surprises me anymore with the behaviors. It is a sad statement on humanity that we do not have to accept quietly any more!!!
Okay, so there is a lot more to say on this subject and it will take a while! One question you can start asking is "How do I know if my child is being bullied?" Well, you may not. If you have a really good relationship with your child, he or she may confide in you. Often they won't. In spite of the fact that being bullied is very painful emotionally and sometimes physically, and in spite of the fact that the child who is being bullied feels incredibly alone, you need to understand that the child is also extremely embarrassed. They are confused by what is happening and humiliated by it.
If you have a close relationship, you may notice behavior changes in your child. The changes may be subtle. The child may just get a little quieter. Sometimes they will act out, and get angry. Sometimes, they will simply do their best to hide everything to act normal, because they do not want to be in this situation. It feels lousy.
The signs could be blatant or they could be hidden. You may notice a change in grades, a change in friends. Sometimes, sadly the only way you find out is if a friend or staff member at school tells you or sadly, when something bad happens.
I have a good friend who explained to me that someone who is bullied will react in one of three ways. They will lash out, they will internalize it or they will seek counseling. For me, I internalized it. I became the subject of my anger. I was certain that something was wrong with me even though I was supposedly one of the "popular" kids. I made sure that no one knew the hell I was going through. I wasn't going to be a big baby too. Besides, in my mind no one cared. And maybe, even probably I deserved it. These are some of the thoughts that go through your head when you are bullied.
Whether your kids are bullied or not, keep close to them. Know them, be aware of their activities and friends. TALK TO THEM!!!!
This is a subject that I have been putting off for a while. Partly because I have been having so much fun telling stories on the kids and mostly because it is pretty painful. It is not easy to talk about. Everyone was home for Pascha. I enjoyed every minute and watched my children with great pride and admired the strong adults that they have become. I guess it was then, that I decided that it was time to let you know. I was bullied. Five of my six children were bullied. Bullies come in all shapes and sizes. You cannot control who they are or why they choose to bully your child. Suffice to say that they exist.
Not everyone will agree on my take on bullies. A significant number of people will tell you that there is no such thing. It is simply a matter of kids being kids. Others will finally admit that they exist but don't want to do anything about it. Others want to do something but don't know what to do and in my opinion many groups are making money off the topic and doing the wrong things.
Bullying is not a new creation. It has existed for many years. I was bullied in high school and that was forty years ago. It is part of who I am now. I can still remember people who thought were my friends suddenly ganging up on me. I didn't know why. I would be laughed at, talked about, left out of things. I had food thrown at me routinely during lunch. I went to my parents and there response was to consider the source and ignore it. It left me feeling pretty isolated and helpless. It has left some scars, the wounds have healed but not without a lot of work. The scars make me very sensitive to people's feelings and angry that bullying continues. By the way, the bullies as well as everyone who watched it happen, have no clue what I was put through and what it did to me.
The pain of bullies is intensified when you see it happen to your child. Maybe that is unique to me because it happened to me. Not only did I hurt for myself through the memories that flooded back, but I ached and cried for my children and their pain. I wanted to help them and did not want them to deal with it alone.
So, for today, that is my first piece of advice. Focus on your child. Acknowledge that they have been hurt and that you are there. The loneliness of being bullied is excruciating. They need to know how much they are loved and that you will do everything within your power to help them and support them. PLEASSE make sure that they know
Wife, Mother, Mother, Mother, Mother, Mother, Mother, Mother, Nurse, Grandmother, Friend...that's me in a nutshell!