Kids are taking their own lives due to relentless verbal, emotional, and physical attacks by bullies because they have been labeled "different". Sure there have been bullies in schools, and even in the workplace, forever. The difference now is that you can't escape it by leaving school after having your lunch money taken or punching the clock at the end of the work day. It haunts and taunts you on the phone, and on the computer and for someone who may already be emotionally fragile: this is a recipe for disaster.
Bullying has become increasingly common in schools throughout the United States and studies have found signs of an apparent connection between bullying, being bullied and suicide. When the bullying moves to the Internet, the trauma to the victim is astronomically escalated. It is full-blown emotional assault.
This issue hit home when my daughter was in 7th grade. Although she survived the intense school and cyberbullying she endured for several weeks at the hands of those that used to be her "friends", the wounds were deep and the signs were there. When she began wearing dark clothes all the time and her grades started slipping, her mood becoming dark and sad without any apparent reason -- at least not due to anything at home -- I knew something was up.
She even made the comment at one point, "I don't want to be here anymore," talking about life. My heart broke. I had no idea it had gotten as bad as it did until she broke down and told me what she had been trying so hard to handle on her own: being pushed against lockers, called names, abandoned by her friends and finally, the call that she put on speaker for me to hear as tears fell from her eyes. Her ex-best friends, whom she had known since 3rd grade, were all on the line calling her every name in the book and laughing at her from a birthday party she was not invited to.
It was then that I took more serious action.
- Removed her from the school and enrolled her in another without notice
- Printed all the threats out and approached her old school, police and parents of bullies with proof of their threats, horrible name calling, sexual comments, and plans to "trick her and bring her down"
- Stayed involved by talking about her feelings in an open environment with drives along the beach, picnics at parks - places where she eventually really opened up to me
- Wrote down, and repeated, appropriate, self-loving responses she needed to use when confronted with possible future bullying
- Began checking her accounts regularly (and still do) by having all access codes for all accounts
It took some time, therapy, alternative healing techniques such as yoga and meditation to help her reconstruct her self-identity into the stronger than ever, boundary setting, self-loving girl she has become. She finally understands that bullies are not the strong ones and that they are more likely to get into trouble with narcotics and law enforcement. I explained that they are hiding behind pretending to be tough and underneath all that bullying is a person with issues far greater than we know.
Just the other day the boy who started it all via a rumor about her recently admitted it was all a lie he made up because he was mad that she broke up with him. She showed me the text from him saying how sorry he was. But the damage was already done.
It is heartbreaking to me that youth are so unaware of the damage they are causing with their judgments, actions and brutally harsh words, not just at school, but via texting and social networking assaults. Today I am so proud of who my daughter has become. She is a strong girl with boundaries and self-esteem who knows how to use her voice. I am a wiser, more alert single mom who is paying attention to my daughter's behavior and friends. Although I give her some room to spread her ever expanding wings, she knows that I am right here for her -- the safest place for her to land and talk about all the pressures she is facing as a teen in today's society.
If you suspect your teen is a victim of bullying of any kind, take action and help your child begin to build the self-esteem and boundaries they need to move through and beyond the inner wounds bullying can cause.
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