Bullying happens all the time. All too often, no one is doing anything to prevent it! She came home in tears, yet again. My precious 12-year-old was being bullied and no one would do anything about it.
My heart broke and I felt totally helpless. We had moved across the country in the summer and when school started, my daughter entered as “the new girl”. Almost all of the other kids had been together since preschool and they closed ranks and targeted my daughter. It certainly didn’t help that the teacher herself was a bully! I went to the teacher, I went to the principal: no one would do anything to stop the bullies to protect my daughter. This was when I realized that “The Golden Rule” was a subject to be discussed during Religion class in this Catholic School – not to be confused with actually living it. I finally pulled my daughter out of that school.
Sadly, Daniel and Maureen Fitzpatrick didn’t have that option when their 13-year-old son Danny took his life because he felt like he could no longer endure the merciless bullying he suffered at Holy Angels Catholic School in Staten Island, NY.
October Is National Bullying Prevention Month
Bullying has been around forever & it’s on the rise
Bullying has been around forever – sadly, many still consider it a typical part of growing up. There has been considerable research proving that, along with an increased risk of suicide among those being bullied; bullies and their victims experience repercussions long into adulthood. A 2010 study, presented at the Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association found that being bullied, as well as bullying, had long term consequences such as depression, anxiety and panic attacks.
The internet has been like pouring gasoline on a fire in regards to bullying. According to a 14-year-old boy I spoke with, “now most of it (bullying) is online”. Hiding behind a screen has become a convenient tool for bullies. One of the most notable cases of cyber-bullying is that of 18-year-old Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi.
Tyler jumped to his death off the George Washington Bridge after his roommate, Dharun Ravi, used his webcam to record Tyler and another man kissing. 2 days later, Ravi encouraged fellow students to watch a second encounter. Even though it never happened, it was more than Tyler could handle… and he was not alone. That same month, 4 other teens committed suicide after being tormented about their homosexuality. As the mother of a gay man, this horrifies me!
Yet, gay men and teens are not the only ones being targeted and adolescents and teens are not the only ones doing the bullying. 49-year-old Lori Drew humiliated and bullied 13-year-old Megan Meier by posing as a 16-year-old boy on MySpace. Ms. Drew’s final message to Megan said “The world would be a better place with you”, Shortly after, Megan hanged herself. The judge in the case overturned the jury’s verdict and acquitted Drew.
Protecting Our Teens and Adolescents
As a parent of adolescents or teens, how do you protect your child from bullying and cyber-bullying? Perhaps we should look to our children for the answers! As an 8th grader, Matthew Kaplan, now 19, took it upon himself to help his younger brother Josh, who was being bullied via text messages and online through Facebook.
Kaplan formed his own nonprofit organization BE ONE Project (Be Open to New Experiences). The 1/2 day workshops focus on middle school students – a time when many are first getting access to cell phones and social media. In his first workshop, the kids who had been bullying his brother apologize to him. A big focus during his workshops is the get the kids to recognize that their actions do have consequences. Hiding behind a phone or computer screen makes it too easy to detach and disconnect from the hurt and damage that they are inflicting on others.
Drumpf’s Hate-Filled Words are Harming Our Children
In this incredibly heated election season, the National Education Association spent over $100,000 on an ad campaign about “The Drumpf Effect”, saying they’ve seen an increase in bullying of Latino and Muslim students as well as those with disabilities in classrooms.
NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia said, “Children feel they are given permission to repeat things they are hearing out of Donald Drumpf’s mouth”. These things are also being repeated at home. Programs in schools and communities are great, yet, I truly believe that it needs to start in the home and it begins with tolerance.
The first place to start with tolerance is to look at and acknowledge our own prejudices. Our kids model us — the old “do as I say, not as I do” doesn’t work! If our kids are hearing us judge and belittle those who are different than us, they are going to share that out in the world. Another thing to look at is to speak up when we hear discriminatory remarks. Again, our kids are always watching and listening and when we don’t speak up, we are implicitly agreeing.
Don’t expect that your child will come to you for help if they are being bullied. They may be afraid of retaliation, feel embarrassed, feel as if there’s something wrong with them, feel that they deserved it. But as parents of adolescents and teens, it is imperative that we are aware of the warning signs.
The Warning Signs of Bullying
What are the signs to look for if you think your child is being bullied?
- frequent illnesses/reluctance to go to school
- injuries they won’t explain
- change in sleep patterns (excessive sleeping, not sleeping)
- property (cell phones, jewelry, cash, etc) that goes missing or is destroyed
- Self-destructive behavior
- isolation from friends/avoiding social opportunities
What are the signs to look for if you think your child is the bully?
- increased anger or aggression
- is friends with other known bullies
- increased disciplinary issues at school
- has new items they won’t explain where they came from
- blames others/doesn’t take personal responsibility
What to do when you find out your child is being bullied
[dropcap]1[/dropcap]The first step is to remain calm. I remember feeling like a mama bear wanting to rip the throat out of those who were mean to my kids. But that was a reaction — responding to the situation will always lead to a more productive outcome/resolution. It’s so important to keep the lines of communication open. If your child sees you over reacting, chances are they will just shut down. Ask them about all aspects of their life, not just the bullying.
[dropcap]2[/dropcap]Rather than contacting the parents of the other child, reach out to your school’s guidance counselor. They have dealt with these issues many times and can act as mediators. Many times, when one parent calls another to accuse their son or daughter of something, it puts them on the defensive and shuts down the possibility of further communication.
[dropcap]3[/dropcap]Many schools and communities are now offering anti-bullying programs. See if there’s one near you and consider getting your child involved, even if they haven’t been bullied. it really does take the whole community coming together to stop bullying.
Regardless of whether or not your child is being bullied or doing the bullying, they can use some coping skills to help deal with stress and anxiety.
CLICK HERE for a related article on cyber-bullying
Here are 4 quick Coping techniques to start using now
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