My daughter is a 6th grader. She is was both nervous and excited about starting middle school this year. She is in advanced classes, makes good grades, and loves to learn.
The year started out pretty good for the first few weeks. Then she had a falling out with a girl. And the girl started putting her down, daily. She would tell my daughter how stupid she was, or how fat. But she didn't just tell my daughter. She would purposely tell the people standing with in ear shot of my daughter as well. Starting conversations with them about how fat, stupid, and dumb my daughter was. My daughter felt betrayed and hurt. And now others were jumping on the band wagon. Either agreeing with the bully girl, or not telling her shut up. Either way, it condoned the behavior.
My daughter tired to suck it up. She went to counselor at school when hit got hard. Nothing was done. The school told the girl to leave my daughter alone, but no one, not the administration or the teachers made sure that was done. The girl continued on with her mission to cut down my daughter and terrorize her. It didn't help they rode the same bus. The girl got others on the bus involved as well. When she would get off the bus, people would yell things like "Freak!" at her. My daughter started fighting back with her words. She wasn't going to take it anymore.
After one particular day at school, it all became too much and she grabbed a pair of scissors in class and started cutting her arm. She then went to the counselors office where I was called in. It was an emotional day for us all. This was back in September. Again the school was going to make sure this girl new to leave my daughter alone, even on the bus. Not sure what they did, but this girl had no consequences up to this point for harassing my daughter.
A few days later it started again. My daughter shot back venom at the girl who was harassing her. She was standing up for herself (no one else was). On this day, the girl struck out and used the palm of her hand to hit my daughter in the forehead. So much for the school keeping them apart. It wasn't a punch, but she struck my daughter (think of the "be healed!" joke from the 90's). That was the last straw.
We were treated by the school as if the incident was no big deal. Like we were making things out to be worse than what they were. Remember, my daughter had been to the counselor on several occasions about this girl. The school knew my daughter had been cutting, which started over all of this. We were flat out told that MY DAUGHTER must have other issues going on and new how to push the other girl's buttons. Say what? So my daughter isn't allowed to stick up for herself? Were they saying she deserved this?
So we went to an attorney and looked into legal action. The bully was moved to the back of the bus and my daughter to the front (why this didn't happen immediately after she went to the school for help to begin with, I don't know. Not sure why the teachers were notmore vigilant to keep the two apart either in class).
But the damage had already begun. My bright, funny, beautiful child; who was once full of self esteem, now hated herself. She began to withdrawal. And her light slowly started dimming.
Kids still talked and do to this day. They still like to tell her how no one likes her. No one cares about her. She has another girl who picked up on all this at the beginning who still, to this day, puts down my daughter almost daily. Again with how stupid, fat, ugly, ... you name it... she is. There are days now, she is pushed into lockers and mocked. My daughter no longer seeks the school's help. They only blame her. I can't blame her for not counting on them. She just takes it. And then she comes home and cuts.
She cuts to let out the anger and pain. She cuts to feel a pain she can control. She cuts to lash out at those who hurt her daily. She keeps saying it's the last time, but it keeps happening. There are days she wants to die. And as a parent.... this kills a piece of your heart and soul to see your child struggling and going through this.
As parents we are doing all we can to help her. I don't feel it appropriate to say what all the avenues are we are taking. My daughter does deserve some right to privacy. And this isn't about that. It's about getting the word out to other parents. Kids are cruel. And their words do damage.
When you are constantly put down on a daily basis by your peers, it strips your self confidence and self worth. The kids your child go to school with are the people your child spends the most time around. 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. They will continue to do school with these kids for years to come. Then will graduate and do life with these same people. Are you getting the picture here?
"When the people you have to do life with are the ones telling you to go ahead and die, when they think nothing of you and enjoy hurting you.... What are you to do? Maybe they are right and I am better off dead." These are just some of thoughts that go through my daughter's head on an almost daily basis.
People have told my daughter to go ahead and kill herself! They have told her she's better off dead. And the effects this has on her, and our family, our devastating. Our lives will never be the same. This has left a scar on us all for sure.
PLEASE.... parents.... PLEASE.... Talk to your children about bullying. Teach them that the words they speak have power. Sometimes it's the power of life and death. Bullying isn't just physical, it's mental and emotional as well. In fact, it's the largest form of bullying these days.
Teach them to stand up for those who can't stand up for themselves or are too damaged anymore to do so. Teach them to report anything they see or hear. Kids have a funny way of jumping on the proverbial band wagon to fit in, or looking the other way if it doesn't concern them directly. Sometimes, just having one person (who is your peer and not your parent) in your corner, can give you a glimmer of hope. And when you are feeling pretty hopeless, that is a really big thing. Larger and more important than you realize.
This year has changed my daughter, and not for the better. It has changed our family. We are working hard to get the light back in her eyes and show her she has worth. Some days are better than others. My once outgoing girl, is now essentially a hermit. It is our hope that her story will help start dialogs with other parents and families. Because bullying just doesn't effect the child being bullied. It effects their families as well. It's life changing.
So please, parents, talk to your children. Ask if they have been a part of or witnessed any bullying. Help them understand what all bullying entails, and what to do about it if they see it. And if they have been a part of it, help them to understand it's not okay.
I am putting this out there with my daughter's full consent. We all want others to know the effects of bullying. Youtube is full of kids telling their story (mostly on note cards) of being bullied and how it is effecting them. Bullying is becoming an silent epidemic in this country, and we have the power to stop it!
Get involved in your children's lives parents. Have conversations with them about who they hang out with, who they talk too, how their day is going. I am lucky to have an open dialog with my daughter and know whats going on in her life and we are working hard to help her. Thank God for that!! Do you know what's going on in your children's lives? Have you met their friends? Do you know the sites they go too online? Does your child have social media? Are you monitoring it? If not, you should! You may be surprised at what you find. (hopefully not)
Be an INVOLVED parent. And start these conversations with your kids about bullying and don't let it die! Ask monthly if they have witnessed any bullying and what they have done about.
And to you parents who have children who have been bullied or are about to find out your child is being bullied.... DON'T GIVE UP ON THEM!! Be there for them! Fight for them!! Do whatever it takes, WHATEVER it takes, to get them through this.
Hang in there!