Bullying has been on my mind. It’s all over the news, in the media, in the Diary of a Wimpy kid book someone checked out from the library last week. I’ve dealt with it myself, and had my first experience being bullied when I was six years old. In fact, it came up in my first session with my new therapist. He’d asked me in very broad terms about my social life and school, how things were for me growing up. I felt that familiar lump in my throat as the word “awful” bubbled up. I didn’t go into anything specific. He latched onto that fact, though, and said, “You were a kid. Little kids don’t know. They can’t take things apart and realize it’s not their fault. They didn’t DO anything, they were just picked. And things like that can follow you the rest of your life (…if you let them — which apparently will be something I’m going to be working on in the months to come).”
The tears came hard and fast then, and of course there was a box of tissues right there. Every decent therapist out there buys stock in Kleenex.
And then there’s my daughter.
She tells me things. There are already “clubs” in second grade. Clubs she’s not allowed to join. Some girls are already quite fashion forward and have voiced opinions about the cool or uncool items others are wearing. Some girls turn up their noses and act rude when my daughter musters up the courage to ask to play with them. Yes, we’ve spoken with her teacher. Yes, the teacher has told the class that clubs aren’t allowed; but I’ve been there, done that. There are easy ways to get around the rules, and just as I was bullied right under the teachers’ noses, so it continues.
A doctor in our pediatrician’s group (Pediatric Associates on the Plaza) recommended the American Girl Company’s line of books, including this journal below. It’s great because although the twins are eight now, they still need prompts to help them figure out what they’re feeling. These didn’t disappoint, and both girls love reading and writing in them. Friendship Troubles is another good one we’re finding helpful.
We love this book. Buy The Feelings Book Journal on Amazon.
So using the doctor’s tips and the books, plus my own instincts, I’m trying to help her. But it’s difficult because when I look at her I see a mini-me.
Important things for me (the mom) to remember:
1.) She is NOT me and I shouldn’t think of her as a small version of me;
2.) She will not have the exact same experiences as I did; and
3.) She will not filter things through the same lenses.
Important things for us to do to help her through this:
1.) On the way home from school or at the end of (most) days, we talk about or write down three things that made us happy. They can be big things or small things — no restrictions or limitations!
2.) We focus on finding friends that make her feel happy.
3.) We encourage her to stand up for herself. It’s okay for her to walk away from a situation or from classmates that are making her sad or uncomfortable, but before she does so, she needs to let them know how they’ve made her feel.
4.) Focus on the positive.
5.) At a certain point she must take these tools and work the rest out herself, mull it over in her journal, etc. She is only eight, but that’s old enough to know the difference between mean girls and nice girls. **I keep saying girls only because most of her friends at this age are girls, and because we haven’t had any issues with boys in her class.**
6.) Empower her so that she knows her own self worth. For a wonderful post about how to teach your children self worth, visit Jennifer Williams’ blog. And for more advice about our kids and their friends, read this post she wrote.
What about you? Have you ever been bullied? What about your children? If so, what do you do to comfort your kids and to teach them how to cope?