In recent weeks, I've noticed a surge in blog posts from concerned parents of young children (usually aged 10 and under) about their children becoming victims of bullying in school. As hard as it is to admit, the fact that I am a young adult with a disability inevitably means that I have ample experience with the big, usually burly, characters who bully. Because I never want my experiences to happen to anyone else, I thought I'd offer a few points. If you are enduring bullying, these tips will apply to you, and if you're a parent of a child who can't quite understand these situations from emotional angles, I hope this will prove helpful.
**As always, I'm never claiming any content to be professional advice. Rather, this advice is based solely on personal accounts and experiences. Should you have serious issues and troubles, I would always encourage you to seek the counsel of a credentialed professional.
It's okay to cry. It is typical for young children or for anyone in vulnerable situations to view crying as a sign of weakness. But in fact, it is just the opposite. Releasing your emotions regarding the situation will change the lens with which it is viewed. Aside from the fact that crying usually leaves us feeling as if a weight has been lifted from our shoulders, it is vitally important. Displaying emotions is often healthy and will lead to more beneficial interactions and understanding in the long run. So, Mom. Let her rest her head on your shoulder as the tears flow down her face. It's okay. It's right.
Remember your worth. It's easy to forget that you've been a hero in so many other areas of your life when your bully is standing over you or walking by to throw out the sly insult. Because most bullying situations don't take place like the movies say that they do (i.e. a big man three times your size throwing punches and calling you a "wuss"), it's easy to let the comments sting as they come straight for you in the hallway. But remember, you're worth it. All. Your family needs you, your friends need you, and you are a bright spot that this world needs in order to shine its brightest. Remember that little sister that is eagerly waiting for you to come home? The puppy that needs your help to grow big, strong, and playful? The mom that depends on your hugs to get her through her workday stress? They all need you. They want you. They love you. Remember your worth.
Take time to think. It is perfectly normal and typical for everyone to want to be liked by everyone else, and it takes awhile to understand that if someone doesn't like you, it doesn't mean that you're not likable. Remember that the "popular" girl at school or in the workplace was only deemed to be that way by those around you; she wasn't sprinkled with limited edition pixie dust at birth, I can assure you. Your friends should be the ones who make you laugh, who make you think, and who love you for who you are are what your bring to the lives of others. One of my best friends in the third grade was the girl who literally could sew anything starting with a simple piece of thread. She wasn't the girl who sold bookmarks to only certain people. Today, she's back in my life and may be helping me as I pursue graduate school. She did something happy and healthy with her life, and I couldn't tell you what the "bookmark" girls are doing right now. Take time to think about your friends, who they are, and what they mean to you.
Lean in when you need support. Unfortunately, you won't always have the ones who love you most right when the bully strikes most of the time. Because of that, it is always important to let people know what is happening right when it occurs. That way, they can help you through logistics of any situation, but they can also support you emotionally, and even physically, when times get tough. If you're in school, it may be important to make teachers and other trusted authority figures aware of your frailty so that if something happens, you're permitted to call parents or a best friend for five minutes after. That way, you understand that you're never emotionally alone. Lean in. You've got this.
Keep a journal. Sometimes, there are thoughts that you just can't express out loud, and that is perfectly okay. So that those thoughts have a way to be released, it is important that you keep a journal, whether it turns into a place for sketches or a place for writing, so that even your innermost thoughts are expressed.
Finally, remember that you're not alone in experiencing difficulty such as this. There are people, young and old, who experience bullying and its many forms on a daily basis. But as Dr. Seuss so wisely said, “Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.”