It was April 21,1999 … a day I will never forget. I entered my high school lobby and the assistant principal could see I was about to lose my mind crying. He grabbed me, took me to the office, and asked what was wrong. I told him, “I don’t know if my friends are alive.” I then proceeded to tell him I used to live in Littleton, CO and my friends were part of the Columbine Massacre. There was no way I was staying home, it was all over the news. Normalcy is what I needed, so I came to school.
Word spread so quickly I barely made it to my locker before homeroom when I heard the whispers. Someone, a female, came up to me and said “The only reason you are here is for the attention.” That wasn’t the last hurtful comment. They lasted for as long as I could remember. So here I was, name called and laughed at all because of someone else got angry and killed my friends over the same exact thing – bullying.
The four years I spent in high school were the absolute worst. That was my freshman year. I had three other years to recover. I never did. I was always labeled an attention seeker. Almost all of my friends were boys. They were the only ones I could trust with my feelings. Then that backfired because I was always hanging out with everyone’s boyfriend. You can imagine.
I graduated high school 15 years ago. There is still resentment towards those who took what should have been a memorable, fun, four years and turned it into pure torture. Recently, I decided something needed to be done to prevent this from happening to others.
Bullying has been around for as long as any of us can remember. It’s an unfortunate consequence of childhood. Bullying, in my opinion, has changed over the years. The types and severity are different. Bullying is encountered not just face-to-face, but also through the internet. It is important as a parent to know the signs – not only if your child is being bullied (because we all know most children won’t talk about it), but also if your child is the bullier.
How do I know if my child is being bullied?
It’s so hard to tell sometimes. If your child is older it could be hormones causing a change in behavior. If your student is younger, they could just be stressed. What’s most important is making sure you find out what is truly going on. If your mom gut is telling you something isn’t right, it probably isn’t. There are some great resources online to learn more about the warning signs. I prefer Stomp Out Bullying, PACERS, and StopBullying.
Here are some warning signs to look for:
- Injuries with no cause
- Lost personal belongings or torn clothing
- Declining grades
- Lost of interest in school
- Avoidance of social situations
- Decreased self esteem
- Changes in eating habits and loss of sleep
What if my child is the bully?
As a mom of two boys, still young, I will always be on the look out for signs my child is the actual bully. Sometimes, it’s even harder to find out if they are the bully instead of the one being bullied. Make sure you have an open dialogue with principals and teachers if you have any gut feeling.
Here are some warning signs of your child being the bully:
- Positive views towards violence
- Aggressive towards adults
- Good at talking their way out of something
- Shows little empathy
- May have been bullied themselves
If you find out your child is indeed a bully, you can take steps to help. Talk to them about the consequences of their actions. Speak with the school and work with them on resolving the issue. Find out if there was a reason the bullying started in the first place. In some situations, counseling will be needed. Don’t ever feel ashamed if you are in this position. We know you didn’t mean for it to happen. You are an amazing parent for being proactive and wanting to stop this behavior!
How can I help?
The best way to help is by just being there. Open a conversation with your child. Show them you are there no matter what. Make sure they have some say in how things are handled – because if you take care of the situation yourself, how are they ever going to learn?
- First, have a conversation with your child. Find out what’s going on. This may be one of those moments where being a friend is a good thing. If they are young, explain the difference between telling and tattling. Telling helps protect yourself or another from getting hurt. Tattling is done JUST to get someone in trouble. Find out the pertinent information like dates, times, people involved. The school will need this information. If it happens outside of school, call the police.
- Second, make an appointment with the school principal for a face-to-face meeting.
- Third, write down everything you and the principal agreed to do to stop the bullying. Show the principal you are holding them accountable.
- Last, follow up with your child and the school. Know your rights.
For a more extensive list of what to do you can go to STOMP Out Bullying.