Friday, April 9, 2010

Bullying... something on everyone's minds

The media is full of tragic tales of bullying taken to extremes these days. It isn't that kids have changed, but rather, the technology has given them access to bullying at any time of day. As a parent, and an educator, I am all too familiar with how damaging bullying can be, but thankfully not to the extremes of recent day. We need to tackle this issue head on and open up dialog with our kids to make sure they do not find themselves on either side of the experience.

WGBH This Emotional Life
offers some fantastic insights and resources to help us as adults, parents, and educators learn more and find some words to start these kinds of conversations. I encourage you to explore and learn more.

More importantly, use the Resource Finder on the site to get help.  If you feel your situation is one that is bigger than you are comfortable dealing with alone, take advantage of the 24/7  crisis hotline.  Enter in your zip code and use the keyword "Bullying" - just make sure to include a wide distance in your search.  I was really pleased to see there are pages of resources locally I can turn to for help, if I find I need it. 

As a parent of 4 children, two in middle school and two in elementary school, friendships and drama is part of the landscape.  We talk every morning on their way to the bus about what kind of day they plan to have and what they are looking forward to.  We talk after school and in the evening about what happened during the day and who they enjoyed or played with on the playground.  We ask the older two about lunch and hanging out.  We pay attention to who is talking with them on Facebook.  They want to be a part of an online community and what better way for them to do that, then with our support and guidance.  Our 6 year old daughter piped up last weekend to remind her big brother that "saying something online is like putting up a billboard and is there forever."  I was thrilled she could offer such profound advice.  We talked more about it and all agreed words can be very very hurtful.  It isn't fair any longer to brush them off with the "sticks and stones" phrase we grew up with. 

Most importantly, we must teach our children to be resilient.  People will hurt our feelings, intentionally and unintentionally.  Have conversations about how to handle it.  When do you respond? When do you say nothing?  Share some ways you wish you would have handled a situation differently or openly discuss a situation that happened to you at that age.  Our children need to connect with us as parents and as teachers and be reminded that these situations happen because we are all human.  We don't always do the right thing the first time, but we can eventually make the situation right.  Apologies are hard at any age but something we have to practice and model for our kids.

Take the time to explore This Emotional Life.  It is a wealth of resources on a wide variety of subjects.  It offers insights from famous personalities and average people like you and I.  It houses some wonderful video segments and tools that go deeper in specific topics.  It reminds us of how fragile we are as humans and how important it is to acknowledge our mental health is just as important as our physical health.  This is the time of year we are all tired and stressed over testing and year end grades.  Find support.  Offer support.  And most importantly, keep your eyes open to those kids and colleagues in your life who need extra support as well.