--Bullying--How big of an issue has this become as of late? Not that bullying hasn't always been something that plagues society, but it's finding new ways to torment people. I work with kids, all ages. My old job was very teen focused. In every training they send you to concerning bullying, they talk about cycles, self-esteem, cyber bullying--- you know what they fail to talk about? Parents. I'm not saying this is every case, I'm just mentioning that if you're active in your child's' lives, you notice changes--and that's both for an aggressor and a victim. It breaks my heart to hear people say things about how they got bullied and made it through, as if it's okay. Each person has a different threshold, past, and set of circumstances. It's important to make changes in our youth and use this as a turning point to do so--not insinuate that bullying is acceptable because we got through it.
I was in 8th grade when my eating disorder really started to take shape. I've asked my friends and family to lose track of photos from that time for my sanity's sake. The eating disorder wasn't a weight issue, for those of you who don't know much about me. It was a control piece and that's often the case in youth--when everything else in your life is out of control that's something you have control over. In my particular case this came from private issues at home, not a social situation. By the time 9th grade rolled around though, I didn't have much of a social situation. Kids in that school were brutal. I can recall two friends who to date I still keep a connection with there. Don't get me wrong, I was a weird kid at that point--my body was in mid puberty with an eating disorder and I was the epitome of awkward. I remember one day in science I must have been zoning off and I heard someone (we'll call her J) say "What is she even looking at? She's so skinny, it's gross. Like does she eat? Do her parents not have money or something!?". That whole room erupted in laughter and inside I felt small and I felt like my secret was starting to be visible. It got worse. "J" and her group of friends began to tell my (few) friends they couldn't hang out with them if they continued to be friends with me. Just a few short weeks later my mom discovered my eating disorder after being tipped off by my dentist. The next few months were intense and somewhat a blur, with counselors and doctors and clinics. My pediatrician (who I love and would still see at almost 27 if they let me) suggested to my mom that we switch school districts and let me start fresh as I began to get healthy. I remember I couldn't be honest with my few remaining friends about why I was leaving or the new friends I (easily) made at my new school about why I got there--not for quite a long time. The move was the best choice made in my recovery--I fit comfortably in my new school, I made friends who I know for certain will be life-long connections. I excelled academically, in extra curriculars, and successfully began self-discovery and relationships. My cousins were at this school and they were helpful in understanding that I had come from a bad place and needed to start over. The point of me saying all of that is that yes I got through it too, but it took a long time to regain a self concept.
So what can we do to help our kids understand the need for compassion and that each person has limits and circumstances? I'm not an expert, but I couldn't help but think it starts with a good relationship with them. And consequences for behaviors that are unacceptable, even if the rest of the world is content with letting them go. It breaks my heart to know the lack of compassion even in peers as adults. Life is already hard, painfully hard at times. We need to remember that one person can make change--it always starts with one person. Agree to disagree, respect that if it's not harming anyone, it's their right to be different (within reason). Forgive. It takes a lot of energy to keep being angry. And it doesn't look good on anyone.
http://www.stopbullying.gov/ <--- this site has laws in each state, groups that you can participate in, and ways to have conversation with your kids.