As much as we all hate to admit it, summer is quickly coming to an end and before we know it, kids will be filing back into the classrooms at school.
For some, this means returning to a safe haven. A place filled with close friends, laughter, socializing and routine, but for others, setting foot inside the school once again feels more like volunteering to step in front of a firing squad.
Kids can be friggin’ mean. It blows my mind how AWFUL some of the things are that kids say and do to each other. Angry words, mumbled threats, physical violence, spreading rumours, and creating isolation or a wall of shame around their peers.
Which side of that wall will you child be on? Are they going to be the one who gets pushed around? And for what? Because they have freckles? Or they aren’t as tall as they ‘should’ be or haven’t hit puberty as quickly? Maybe it’s their glasses, or that their family can’t afford the latest fashions and trendy supplies.
Or maybe your kiddo is going to be slammed with words that slice deep like icy splinters that pierce their heart and sting like salt in a fresh wound. Maybe they get told that they’re not good enough, not fast enough, not skinny enough, not pretty enough.
Just… not enough.
It’s also entirely possible that your kid is the one hurling these insults. Throwing those metaphorical daggers, causing fear and forcing more self-loathing into the more vulnerable children at school. The glares. The stares. The threats and the mistreatment.
Please teach your kiddos that none of this is okay. None of it is ‘normal’ or ‘part of growing up’. This isn’t normal.
This is violence. Assault.
School is meant to be a safe place for everyone.
When it’s not, how can we expect our children to be focused? How can we expect them to get great marks when all they think about is how they’re going to have to dodge the bullies on the way to the bathroom, like a running-back forcing their way between huge, intimadating-as-hell defensive linemen as they try their best to reach the end zone.
What is that end-zone? Is that peace and quiet at home? Or is it somewhere much darker and scarier?
Maybe your kid isn’t the one hurling the profanities OR the one who those sticks and stones are directed towards. Maybe they’re just a bystander watching the scene unfold.
Sometimes saying nothing is worse.
Imagine the feeling of your best friend in the entire world stand idly by as you are being beaten. Ripped to shreds by a pack of rapid wolves. Imagine them not stepping in when you need them the most.
Teach your kids that this behaviour is NOT okay. Talk about what to watch for. Show them how to be an advocate. Lead by example. Explain to them that many times, when people are being bullied that they don’t feel strong enough to stand up for themselves, to reach out and ask for help, or even to just say ‘no’. Tell them that sometimes those folks just need a friend to hold their hand, keep them safe and tell them that they’re not alone. Or if it’s another child that’s being attacked – tell your kiddo that it’s okay to find a trusted adult and get some help.
BE A TRUSTED ADULT.
Explain to your children the differences between tattling and asking for help.
Tell them that you’ll never EVER be upset with them for coming to you for help. Sometimes they may not be able to say all of the words they need to, but if you pay attention to their body language, moods, and their behaviours, you know when something is wrong.
Keep the lines of communication open. Encourage them to ask questions. Celebrate when they are curious. Be proud of them when they want to help.
But most of all, just listen.
Listen to what they’re saying. How they’re saying it. When they are saying it. Then maybe, just maybe, you’ll figure out the why.
Bullying is not okay. Ever.
Be the best parent you can be. Be an ally. Be an advocate. Be there for your kids when they need you the most.