As I shared with you in a previous blog, I also know what it's like to be bullied. I know how it feels to believe there is no light at the end of the tunnel. That no one cares. I know what it's like to feel the shame. I know what it's like to be so embarrassed about it that you don't want to talk about it to anyone. I know what it's like to feel that the only way out is to
I also know what it's like to hide what's going on. I know what it's like to pretend that everything is fine because you just want to feel better, even for a little while. I know what it's like to feel that no one can do anything about it. I know what it's like to believe that if you did tell someone, your life will get worse.
How do you know if one of your kids is at this point? If you already have a good relationship with your child, they may try to make sure they look fine to you on the surface because they don't want you to feel bad. If they are a teenager, they also want to feel more grown up and that they can handle it themselves. Chances are they already believe you can't do anything and that's why they haven't spoken to you about it. If you have a close connection with your child, you most likely already know something is up, but you don't know what it is.
Having been there myself, here are some suggestions on what to do to get your child to open up to you:
• Don't wait it out to see if it'll pass! If it is serious, there is no time to lose.
• Have a talk about bullying and share what you know you could do to stop it. Maybe you have your own story that they may be open to hearing about.
• Don't automatically assume the worst because it may not be something serious, but they are just too embarrassed to talk about it. Also realize that if something isn't right, and they aren't talking to you about it, they feel like whatever is bothering them is a big deal. Take it seriously!
• Spend more time with your child. Plan some fun time together immediately, and don't take no for an answer. The more you can do this, the quicker your child may open up to you. Phones are OFF LIMITS for both of you during these times! Your child needs undivided attention and zero interruptions.
• Be persistent but gentle. Just because your child hasn't opened up about what is bothering them, doesn't mean they won't. Keep at it!
• Get help! Enlist your friends, relatives and trusted professionals to help you.
With Halloween almost here and Thanksgiving right around the corner, I have felt myself shift focus toward the next holiday a lot sooner than usual. I really want to make Thanksgiving extra special this year. I had an idea a couple of years ago on just how to do that but I haven't gotten around to it yet. I think this year is the year!
Several months ago I reconnected with someone from high school. We had lost touch in college and I had always wondered how she was doing. Last I had seen her was when my father was battling Leukemia; during the last half of my high school years. While it was very tough on me, I found that many of my friends didn't know what to say. In hindsight, I can understand that they just didn't know how to handle it and, frankly, how many teenagers would. This one friend though, always knew when all I needed was a hug. After reconnecting with her a few months ago, I was so happy to be able to tell her just how much her friendship had meant to me all those years ago.
After seeing how much she appreciated hearing that, I realized the idea I had a couple of years ago was something I needed to do. People really need to hear meaningful words of encouragement more often. They need to know that who they are makes a positive difference in someone's life.
Starting in the next couple of weeks I am going to start writing what I am calling my Thanksgiving Letters. I am going to sit down and make a list of all of the people that have made a positive impact on my life in some way and take the time to write them a note to tell them that. I plan on making this a yearly tradition and, hopefully, my sharing it here will encourage other people to do it too.
Photo by Eddie~S
With all of the much needed attention to school bullying, there are a lot of people stepping forward to tell their stories. So in the spirit of the movement, I will tell you mine. I too was bullied, but not in the way that you probably assume.
Jr. High for me was tough, as it is for a lot of kids. I was picked on a bit. My supposed best friend would ignore me in the hallways as if she was too embarrassed to let anyone know she was friends with me, but would want to hang out with me on the weekends. And even though I was picked on, it was nothing in comparison to what I had been experiencing at home. By the time I was 13, I had experienced intense bullying not from my peers, but from people that were supposed to be family.
For me, it started when I was very little. My older sister was my first tormentor. She would rip all of the heads, arms and legs off of my dolls and throw them all over the yard. You could argue that it's just normal sibling stuff but it didn't stop with my dolls. At her worst, my sister would torment me to tears. Her favorite thing to do to me was take a big handful of spit and wipe it all over my face. She thought it was hilarious that it made me gag and would laugh relentlessly about it.
Unfortunately my being bullied didn't stop there. Instead, it got exponentially worse. Only a few short months after my dad was granted custody of us, when I was only 7, his new wife was my new tormentor. It started with her belittling my own mother and making us believe my mother was mentally ill to the point where we were afraid to even mention her name. Then she transferred her anger issues directly to each of us kids. She would verbally rip us apart, call us names and eventually made us truly believe there was something wrong with us. That we were unlovable. She made us feel like we didn't deserve to be alive. Every single day I would dread getting on the school bus to come home. Every single night at the dinner table was a lecture session that usually ended up with her yelling at us. I would dread Saturdays even more because all I had to look forward to was an entire day of abuse.
The abusiveness wasn't just verbal and mental, but often physical as well. There were many days throughout elementary school and junior high where I couldn't brush my hair because my scalp burned so badly. She would use my hair to pull me around the room so she could hit me. And somehow she knew how to inflict just enough pain to usually never leave a mark on exposed skin. But I will tell you, there were days that I had bruises on my upper arms and back that matched the outlines of her fingers. Ironically, I was seeing the school counselor, along with my other peers who had just had parents that divorced, but the abuse was never discovered. I was too afraid to talk about it and the counselor never even asked.
The last time she laid a hand on me was just before my father died. I was 17 and I woke up to her fists pounding on me at 2 a.m. She then threw me as hard as she could against the wall next to the bed. My shoulder hasn't been the same since. The next several years the outward abuse turned into sociopathic abuse. It was so bad that my coworkers at the preschool she owned told me that I really needed to get away from her because of the lies that she was telling about me were so bad. They were too embarrassed for me to even tell me what they were.
I finally got away from the abuse and have a life that is completely 180 degrees from that life of negativity, shame and pain. I hope my story will make someone think about a situation close enough to intervene before it turns tragic. In my case, I am happy to say there was no tragedy. But I will tell you that the screaming and crying coming from my house as a kid was so loud you could hear it 3 to 4 houses down the road. In my average, normal suburban neighborhood, not ONE of my neighbors ever called the police!
I tell you about this not to make anyone feel sorry for me. I tell you this to point out that after surviving all of that, when I look at the school bullying situation, I can't help but think that these kids that are inflicting pain on others had to have learned it somewhere. In my case, it just isn't in my personality to take any of what was done to me and inflict that on someone else. What about these bullies though? Even if they weren't bullied themselves at home in one way or another, where else are they picking up the nastiness from? Are they picking it up from seeing their parents, friends or relatives bully others? It is obvious that in each of the tragic cases that have been in the news lately, the behaviors of these kids have gone completely unchecked. Where were these kids' parents? I don't believe there is any excuse good enough for these cases to have escalated to the points they did. The schools can only do so much. It's the parents that need to be held accountable, along with their kids.
As a Parent Coach and Mentor, my passion lies in empowering parents to make the best decisions they can for their children and their families as a whole. As a well-trained coach, I can be your facilitator and accountability partner for long-lasting, meaningful change that has a permanent, positive impact for your family. By focusing on the values that you hold most important in your life, I can help you create and maintain the type of parenting relationship you want to have with your children, now and into their adulthood.
I am a homeschooling mom of four children in Massachusetts. I am also the author of a book called The Herbal Beverage Book, which can be found on amazon. When not coaching, writing or spending time with the family, I enjoy Hayao Miyazaki films, new and classic Dr. Who episodes, anything related to American history and a great glass of mead.
. . . . . . .
This blog is a collection of thoughts, articles and perspectives I have at any one time. While I am pretty consistent in my beliefs, life changes and evolves along with experiences. You may feel a connection with me through my writing yet I never want any of my readers to misunderstand that the connection you feel is with a perspective I have shared and not me as a person. I am continually humbled that I am able to connect with my readers, and I hope to continue to be able to for many years to come, but it doesn't make us connected in any way beyond this. If you connect with what I write and know me as an acquaintance, this in no way reflects that I have any knowledge of you, your situation in life or that I am writing with you in mind. It is merely that I have shared a human experience that most likely very many others have had has well. This also goes for anything I post on my Twitter account, Facebook Page and Facebook personal page. I wanted to make this disclaimer as clear as possible so you know that any misunderstanding you choose to have is not my responsibility.