When asked the question: “What threatens your safety and emotional health?” most kids say, teasing and bullying (Kaiser Family Foundation & Children Now, 2001).
My son JJ has an autism spectrum disorder. Intolerance has been the hardest part of our journey. Junior high years brought episodes of students taunting JJ that only got worse in high school.
When I dropped JJ off at school, I watched from a distance how others treated him – as if he was invisible. He would run up to a group of peers excited to share stories from the past summer recess only to have them turn their noses up and look in other directions. It wasn’t cool to talk to someone who portrayed differences.
In 8th grade, the students took a field trip to the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles. It was ironic how they were learning about being tolerant of others, but excluded JJ from their working groups for that day’s activities. Excluding someone from the group or ignoring others are forms of bullying.
“Research has shown that bullying occurs in school playgrounds every seven minutes and once every 25 minutes in class. According to the US National Education Association, 160,000 children skip school each day in the U.S. because of intimidation by their peers. Children with disabilities or special needs are often at higher risk for being victims of intolerance or bullying,” according to Dee DiGioia, founder of Caring and Courageous Kids. “Many researchers believe that bullying involves an imbalance of power – either physical or emotional. What these targeted children need to learn is that it is not their fault –they aren’t bullied because of their disabilities, or because of their shape of body, or any other reason. Children are targeted and bullied because the bully made the choice to target them!”
What are you doing to raise awareness against bullying? Speak out. Get involved with anti-bullying programs. Most importantly, empower your child.
- If you have been bullied, tell an adult. Sometimes you may need to tell more than one trusted adult.
- Have a buddy system – there is safety in numbers.
- Practice saying with your parents, teachers or friends what you would say to a bully “It’s not okay to bully.”
- Stay calm and confident.
- Walk away.
Just as important – Don’t just stand by and watch someone being bullied. With the help of your friends – surround the person being bullied and tell the bully it’s not okay; then walk away with your friends arm in arm. Remember, there is safety in numbers.
It is our responsibility as parents to teach our children tolerance. Remember the golden rule – treat others the way in which you would want to be treated. It’s all about empathy – put yourself in the other person’s shoes.