The two things to know about bullying

Dear Daughter,

A hot topic in the news lately is bullying, because there have been many instances (far too many) of kids committing suicide as a result of being bullied. It’s horribly tragic and such a shame. I firmly believe that this can be prevented, and that parents are the number one source of prevention. So it’s time I start talking to you about it.

First of all, I must admit that I’m perplexed as to why this is happening suddenly. Bullying is nothing new. It’s been around since the beginning of humanity. So why is it that the results of bullying are so extreme now? Is the type of bullying worse than it’s ever been? Are kids more sensitive? Or is the world just so complex now that kids simply can’t handle one more difficulty? I suppose it’s a mixture of all three.

Whatever the causes, I have two messages for you today: one is to avoid bullying with all of your might, and the second is to speak up if you’re being bullied.

There will always be kids in your class who are “different,” outsiders, not desirable to be around. You will be tempted to make fun of them because of this. Especially when all of your friends are making fun of them. But before you do, I implore you to put yourself in their shoes. Imagine if YOU were the one who was “different.” Would you want people alienating you and teasing you incessantly? Would you want to be the one sitting all by yourself at lunch? There was a time, in sixth grade, when I was the girl with no friends, and I can tell you firsthand that it’s beyond painful. It’s difficult for those kids to even wake up every day, knowing they’re about to face more and more rejection. Don’t contribute to their pain and fear.

I’m not saying you need to be best friends with that person, but I am saying you should treat him or her how you would want to be treated. At the very least, if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. They might appreciate your silence, that you’re the ONE kid who leaves them alone. But it also wouldn’t hurt to take it one step further: smile at them or talk to them about something you know they’re interested in every once in a while. MAYBE even ask them to sit with you at lunch. Your friends might be appalled, but chances are good they’ll also admire your leadership and willingness to step outside the box by befriending the unfriended. Who knows, maybe your actions can change the way your entire group of friends thinks about the kid. It’s worth trying, at least.

And finally, if you’re being bullied, don’t just sit there and take it. Stand up for yourself wherever possible, show people that you are unique and that your uniqueness makes you awesome. If it gets really bad, tell us or your teachers or some other authority figure about it, in case disciplinary action needs to be taken. And find coping mechanisms, so you can focus on things other than the bullying. Bury yourself in a hobby or sport. Exercise. Invest in your relationship with God, whose immense love for you will always cancel out the hatred of the bullies.

My biggest hope is that you’ll be loved and accepted and that you will love and accept others. I hope that when the bullied kid is grown and looks back on his younger years and remembers you, he’ll think, “She was different from the others. She made my life a little easier.” Make that your goal today.

Love,
Mom

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