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Were you bullied as a child or teenager? Are you a parent who suspects your child is being bullied? The dictionary defines bullying as physical, verbal, or psychological aggression or harassment toward others, with the goal of gaining power over or dominating them. If you were treated like this when you were younger, then you remember what it felt like. You know how damaging it can be.

bullying2Some victims become so despondent they become suicidal. A child or young teen might say, “I just wish I could go away and never come back”. Completed suicides directly related to being bullied are rising in number every day. This is such a tragedy.

I’m writing a book about my experiences as the mom of a daughter who has been bullied. She eventually developed addictions, mental health issues (brain disorders) and self-injury. Since this is part of her story, I dedicated a chapter to this topic. I’m including a few excerpts in today’s blog.
My daughter, Renee, was the victim of a bully at a very young age—from first grade through third grade, then some in middle school, but we never knew how severe it was. I believe this experience ultimately impacted how she viewed herself and others. She’s still processing those experiences. She’s almost twenty-eight years old.

One of my friends told me how her daughter developed headaches, insomnia, and an eating disorder as a result of being harassed by her classmates. Another friend shared her story with me. Here are a few portions. Maybe you will mirror your own or your child’s:

“My son has always been a target for bullies. Maybe it’s because he’s a foot shorter than everyone else his age, or maybe it’s because he’s one of the smart kids, or maybe it’s because he never liked sports. I don’t know what it is, but he’s had a problem ever since I can remember. It didn’t seem to affect him too much until his fifth grade year. That was the year we moved and he had to start making friends all over again.
He didn’t seem to click with anyone in his new school.

By the middle of the year, he told me about this kid who was mean to him a lot. He said they would make fun of him whenever he got the chance. He would get their other classmates to laugh at my son and generally exclude him from everything. He told me he hated school and didn’t want to go back. I told him I would talk to his teacher, but he didn’t want me to. So I didn’t do anything at first, but as the year went on, the bullying didn’t stop, so I ended up calling the school.

Come to find out, the kid that was bullying my son was a girl. A big, mean girl who’s mother worked in the school’s office. The teacher had a talk with this girl and she claimed to not know what my son was talking about. She said she never did any of those things. Since it was his word against hers and the teacher had no proof, nothing happened, except now she knew that my son had tried to get her in trouble.

For the remainder of the year she continued to harass him, but he stopped telling me about it, afraid I would call the school again. That’s when my son learned that telling on someone who’s done something wrong doesn’t always help . . . he knew I couldn’t protect him either.

In the beginning of seventh-grade, he broke down and told me he was being picked on in gym class. He never liked sports and he wasn’t very good at them. The kids made fun of him for being short and pudgy; he was always picked last for teams, and they would trip him.
When I say broke down, I mean in tears. It was so sad to see him like that, hearing how he was being treated. He told me he hated going to school so much that he wished he could fall asleep and never wake up. That was a huge wake up call . . .

bullying1I ended up talking to a couple of guidance counselors who were very helpful. I learned about Florida Virtual School: He could take classes online at home and the rest at school, or he could take all of his classes online . . .

We decided to have him take some classes online, and the rest at school. He was so happy to be able to take his gym class online.

I can’t stop kids from being cruel to him and apparently, neither can the school, but I can tell him it will get better. I can share my own struggles that I had with bullies when I was his age and how I dealt with them. And I can tell him how much I love him – how amazing I think he is. And that is what I’ve done.”

 

Resources for Parents and schools:

The Essential Guide to Bullying: Prevention and Intervention by Cindy Miller and Cynthia Lowen (Penguin Group; New York, NY; 2012)

Bullying: Help Your Child Handle a Bully; article by Mayo Clinic staff; mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/childrens-health/in-depth/bullying

Face Bullying with Confidence; article by KidPower  8 Skills we can use right away. They also have other resources to help parents; kidpower.org/library/article/prevent-bullying

Bullying: What Parents Need to Know and Do to Keep Kids Safe by KidPower Solutions, by Irene Van der Zande ( KidPower TeenPower FullPower International, 2010, Santa Cruz, CA)

What Do I Do When: Teenagers Encounter Bullying and Violence? by Dr. Steve Gerali; Zondervan, El Cajon, CA, 2009

Bullying in a Cyber World, Grades 6 to 8 (also available for grades 4 – 5) ; additional materials available for parents and schools;
Didax Inc., 2012, Rowley, MA.

Bully Free it Starts With Me, nea.org/home/neabullyfree.html; The National Education Association (NEA) program to stop bullying in public schools.

God, Defender of the weak, please protect our children from bullies. Heal their heart, mind and soul from any damaging affects they’ve already experienced. Equip us to know how to help them. Make us wise as we show them how to be strong. Make us willing to be used to make a difference in our communities. Amen.

October is Anti-bullying month. It’s a major problem in schools all over the country today. It’s huge. And now cyber-bullying is on the increase. This past week I listenedfrustration to a tragic story on the evening news about a teen who committed suicide because of how cyber-bullying had devastated him. How awful.

If your child has been the victim of a bully you know how terrible it is. You’ve seen what it’s done to them. You’ve ached for them, cried with them, worried about them and struggled over what to do.

As parents we want to protect our sons and daughters from every kind of pain. We’ll do anything in our power to shield them from the hurts of life. We’d rather be the one to suffer instead of them. If we could, we’d take their place.

If only we could.

According to a 2009 survey by the American Psychological Association (APA), “almost half of tweens and teens report suffering from stress symptoms related to being bullied: Headaches, problems sleeping and eating disorders are a few. Bullying may be the most prevalent form of violence in schools and is likely to affect the greatest number of students.”

It’s not surprising to hear that bullying can also lead to abusive behavior from the victim – sometimes they become a bully themselves - in addition to causing high levels of frustration, anger, sadness, personal suffering, addictions of all kinds and physical disease. I had no idea it could be so detrimental.

I’m not alone. Only ten percent of parents are aware their child is being bullied or that this is the cause of damaging symptoms they’re seeing. That breaks my heart.

If these individuals never receive any kind of professional help, reports show they can suffer in the following ways well into their adult years:

  • Problem-solving
  • critical-thinking
  • effective communication
  • creativity
  • confidence

My daughter was a victim of bullying in elementary school, but I never knew about it. She suffered in silence. Common to most victims, she believed it wouldn’t do any good to ask for help. Certain it would only make things worse she kept it a secret. Eventually, she suffered many of these symptoms and long-lasting effects.

But don’t despair. There’s hope for anyone who wants it.

If you suspect your child is being harmed in this way or has been in the past, take them to see a counselor.  Your son or daughter may not open up right away, but encourage them to give it a try. It can’t hurt anything. The sooner they get help, the better.

Are you not sure what else you can do? Here’s an excellent source of information to help stop bullying for both parents and schools. Together, we can make a difference. Check it out and if you like what you see go to a key administrator in your child’s school and talk to other parents. Change starts with us.

The Bully Project

The BULLY Project is the social action campaign inspired by the award-winning film BULLY. We’ve sparked a national movement to stop bullying that is transforming kids’ lives and changing a culture of bullying into one of empathy and action.  The power of our work lies in the participation of individuals like you and the remarkable list of partners we’ve gathered who collectively work to create safe, caring, and respectful schools and communities. Our goal is to reach 10 million kids or more, causing a tipping point that ends bullying in America. 

Dear God, please protect those who are being bullied today. Give them courage to stand up to the bully. Convince them they need to let someone know, that others really do care and that they shouldn’t stay silent. Then give the person they go to courage and determination to get involved. Give them wisdom to know how to help in the best way. Equip parents, school personnel and fellow students to defend and come to the aid of those who are being hurt in this way.  Amen.

 

Have you ever felt like your fears and anxieties about your child were getting the best of you? Did you wonder how in the world you were going to cope with the myriad of things you worried about? Maybe your child abuses drugs or alcohol, is a self-injurer, has an eating disorder, a same-sex attraction, a mental illness, struggles with suicidal thoughts, or is incarcerated. You’re a nervous wreck. Consuming every waking hour your sleep is also affected. What to do?

During a time when I was struggling with many fears for my daughter, I heard about making a God Box. It’s not my own original idea. I heard about it in an Al-Anon meeting and it was very powerful for 048me. This strategy helped me deal with my emotions of fear, worry and anxiety. It helped me trust God and let go a little more.

Here’s how it works: Continue Reading »

Have you been caught in the middle of a storm with your son or daughter that feels like it will never be over? The phone calls in the middle of the night; collect calls from jail to bail them out one more time; repeated hospitalizations; endless medical bills; crisis after crisis. Have you found yourself in a situation where its really not healthy for you to be too involved in your child’s life anymore?

fall15Maybe they struggle with an addiction to drugs or alcohol (or something else); a mental illness or brain disorder, or with self-injuring behaviors (cutting or an eating disorder); a same-sex attraction; or are constantly in and out of trouble with the law.

You’ve done everything you knew to do. You’ve tried hard to rescue them, save them, change them and fix them – but nothing worked. You’re stuck in a never-ending storm. You feel like you can’t take it any more.

What do you need? (besides for your child to be okay) You need the serenity that comes from learning to love your child from a distance. Serenity isn’t the absence of a storm, it’s peace in the middle of it. Continue Reading »

Flowers growing out of the ashes of Mt. St. Helens

Flowers growing out of the ashes of Mt. St. Helens

September was Suicide Prevention Month. I know it’s October now, but I still wanted to share some great resources to help parents (or anyone) who is recovering from a suicide (or any death).  A dear friend of mine lost her husband to suicide a little over seven years ago. Her life has changed forever – so has her children’s. But as a result, God led her on a healing journey that resulted in her becoming a mental health counselor.

In this post I’m going to share her favorite books. Finding good resources to help with such a difficult grief isn’t easy. As Christians, we have a different world view that affects how we cope with death, but suicide is a horse of a different color. Continue Reading »

I remember when I felt very discouraged and depressed about my daughter. At nineteen-years-old she was addicted to alcohol and drugs, had a 038brain disorder (mental illness) and a serious problem with cutting. The strain of her destructive choices and behaviors was getting to me. I felt like I was stuck in a drought, languishing in a heat wave with no end in sight.

Is the heat chipping away at your confidence and trust, causing you to give in to worry and fear for your son or daughter? Do you wonder if they’ll ever be okay?  Will you ever have a normal life or a loving relationship with them? Have you lost count how many times they’ve been arrested, gone to rehab or relapsed? Have you forgotten how many times they’ve been hospitalized or in the psych ward?

There have been so many arguments. So much chaos. So much despair. Their lives appear to be drying up and fading away.

It may feel like yours is, too. Continue Reading »

This is PART 2 of the journey of a former agnostic who was raised in a strong Christian home. TJ, now twenty-eight, shares how he shut God out and fell into the party scene. He told me his story to offer encouragement and fresh hope to brokenhearted parents. If God can transform his life, then He can transform your child’s life, too.

After a period of  hard-partying, downtown clubbing, bar-hopping, shameless liquor, girl-chasing, and unrestrained recreational party drugs, losing his girlfriend and who he thought were close friends, TJ’s story continues:

I realized how I’d destroyed everything wonderful in my life. And so, I cried out to God in my brokenness and agony—and, for the very first time Surrenderin my life, I heard Him answer. He picked me up out of the rubble of my self-destruction and from that moment on I promised to never lash out against Him again.

How could I keep pushing Him away after everything He revealed to me and the peace He gave me in the aftermath of what I’d done? And what was it specifically that I had done? Continue Reading »

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