Back to school time can be brutal. I know. More than 30 years ago, I was the victim of daily bullying by a group of very, very mean girls.
Each day on the playground, they would follow me around, taunt and torment me, but I was lucky in the sense that I did have a group of supportive friends who would often shelter and circle around me. Every day, I looked forward to the clang of the last bell of the day so I could go home. In the days before our 24-hour digital and social media hyper world, at least, I could escape my tormentors for a while.
Home, however, wasn’t exactly a haven. When I would cry to my parents and big brother about how I was treated they would tell me to fight back or try to conform with how these girls acted. But I didn’t want to conform, I didn’t like anything about these girls. I know my parents didn’t mean to, but in many ways, I believed they blamed me for how I was treated. They would ask me, “What did you do to make these girls dislike you? You always have been a little odd.” This actually made me feel worse, I was already overweight, tall for my age and wore glasses, and I often wondered, ‘Why aren’t my parents trying to bolster my self-esteem and tell me that I am strong and powerful? Why weren’t they telling me that I didn’t need the approval of those girls?’ It wasn’t that my parents didn’t love me or want the best for me, but I believe they simply thought bullying was just a rite of passage. Their answer simply was “Kids can be mean, and it’s just a part of growing up.”
But it really isn’t. No one has the right to degrade anyone. It was only after that I made a half-hearted suicide attempt (I am so glad I didn’t succeed) that my parents began to take me seriously and got me the help I needed. They signed me up for a bullying support group for kids run by a nationally respected child mental health professional at the time.
Within the confines of this bullying support group, I would soon learn I wasn’t alone and that I had new friends who I could count on when things got rough. Things did get worse, but the point is, I survived. Your kids will also survive. That is, if you circle around them and do everything possible to boost their self-esteem by accepting them as they are, not as you would have them to be.
I eventually left the school where I experienced bullying. After that, I went on to make a lot of new friends in junior high, in high school, college and beyond. I am convinced, however, that the support group I participated in for more than a year gave me the strength and the coping skills to move on to a happier and more fulfilling school life.
– TK, a Guest Blogger