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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.

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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.

 

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frustrationBullying is a major problem in schools today. It’s huge. And now cyber-bullying is on the increase. This past week I listened to the tragic story on the evening news about a teen who committed suicide because of how cyber-bullying devastated them. How awful.

As parents we want to protect our children 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 the schools and likely to affect the greatest number of students.”

It’s not surprising to hear that bullying also leads to abusive behavior for the victim, high levels of frustration, anger, sadness and personal suffering, addictions of all kinds and physical disease. I had no idea it could do so much damage to a person. I’m not alone. Only ten percent of parents are aware their child is being bullied or that this is the cause of their symptoms. That breaks my heart.

If they never get any professional help, reports show individuals can suffer in the following ways into their adult years:

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

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

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

If you suspect your child is being bullied or was in the past, seek out the help of a counselor.  They 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.

Not sure what else you can do? Here’s an excellent source of information to help stop bullying for both parents and schools.

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. 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. Equip parents, school personnel and fellow students to defend and come to the aid of those who are being hurt in this way.  Amen.

 

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I am one of millions who watched the TV news specials the night your royal baby boy was born. It was almost 31 years ago, but I remember well howMimi's visit to help the new parents 027 that felt – how wonderful it was when my husband and I had our first child, also a son. When our two daughters were born, 4 and 2 years later, it was just as wonderful. I was blissfully happy and very unaware of the trials that lay ahead on my parenting journey. My children are all adults now. With one of them it was a very rocky road. These are a few things I wish someone had told me.

– This child you fell madly in love with  the moment you laid eyes on him, may one day reject your love and break your heart. He may even tell you he  hates you and that your decisions ruined his life.

– Your child can easily become your sole focus, the center of your world. They can even become an idol. You begin to need them to do well and excel to be able to feel good about yourself. Too much of your personal fulfillment comes through them. Don’t let that happen. Your value and worth are not determined by your child’s success, or lack of it. If they falter, where does that leave you?

– Your job as a parent will change when he turns eighteen, your role will change from teacher/nurturer and disciplinarian, to adviser and friend. Prepare yourself for that. It will come all too soon – although there will be days you long for it, when the time comes you will grieve. You may even feel lost for a bit until you find new direction.

– He won’t need you as much when he becomes an adult (even an older teenager), but you can always have a place in his life as mom and dad. In many ways your job as parent never ends. However, you’ll have to work to find ways to connect with him as an adult. Learn about his hobbies and interests, educate yourself about them, show interest in what he likes. It will draw him to you.

– While he’s growing up, if you ever discover he’s being bullied, get involved immediately. Come to his aid and don’t leave him to solve the problem on his own. Do whatever it takes to stop the bullying and protect him from its damage. Statistics have shown the long term affects of bullying on a young, developing child can be devastating to their over-all emotional development well into adulthood.

– From this day forward you will be more vulnerable to pain – his pain. It’s like you’re walking around with your heart on the outside of your chest – easily wounded and broken by whatever wounds or breaks him.  I’m so sorry to tell you this. It is a harsh reality.

– Above all, be sure to tell him how much you love him. Over and over again. Every day. He can’t hear it enough, even though you may think it unnecessary because of all the ways you show him. He still needs to hear it. Especially tell him there is nothing he could ever do that would cause you to love him any less or any more than you always have. No matter what. One day he may really need to know it – to have it stored firmly in his memory bank to retrieve after a failure or two. I promise you will never regret it if you do this.

This is my list. It could be much longer. I find it hard to believe I’m a grandparent now!  God bless you and I wish you the best as you seek to raise your child the best that you can in a very challenging world.

I’d like to leave you with an encouraging word from the best guidebook of all time, the Bible:

“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. ” (James 1: 5 NIV)

*The photo is my son holding his first child, my first grandchild. Precious.

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