At one point or another, most children come home from school with some kind of social conflict. It’s a natural part of growing up. Relationships can be tricky. But when a child is being bullied, the stakes are higher. That’s why it’s important to listen to our kids and provide them with the kind of support they’ll need to resolve problems before they escalate.
When my son was in elementary school and experiencing significant bullying, we had difficulty communicating our needs and expectations. We were new at this. The school wasn’t very receptive, and sometimes I think they just didn’t know what to do, or didn’t want to deal with it.
But when we found one compassionate teacher who understood the situation, and who my son felt comfortable with, certain things started getting better. She would go out of her way to get him involved with activities that built his confidence and made him feel successful. That was a turning point for him.
From that point on he felt he had someone to turn to, in addition to me, when anything happened. He had someone to tell.
Whenever I go to one of my workshops, I ask all the kids to raise their hand if they can name someone in a position of authority who they’d feel comfortable telling if they were being bullied. Usually, about 60 percent put their hands up.
Next, if they feel comfortable, I ask all of them to them to share the name of the person with the group. This usually stirs up a little conversation about favorite teachers, or principals, and why they feel good about communicating with them.
After we chat for a bit, I ask those in the group if they’ve now thought of a person they can talk to if they feel bullied or just need some guidance. They nod, and I ask my initial question again, “Who here has an adult in this school they feel comfortable talking to if they feel bullied?”
Almost every time, there’s a shift, and they all raise their hand.
If anyone is still stuck, the classroom teacher comes forward after the workshop and has a chat with them about being able to communicate. Potential problem averted.
I ask my kids the same question at home. Who would you go to? It’s so important that our children understand they’re not alone, and that if they confide in us we’ll take action to protect them. We understand their challenges, and we won’t stand by while they are targeted and treated badly.
It’s the least we can do.
Taryn Grimes-Herbert is a screenwriter, performer and the author of the I’ve Got character-building book series for children, and was 2010’s Woman of Achievement in the Arts Honoree for Orange County, NY. Calling upon her professional acting experience on Broadway, film and television, she speaks out and takes her books into classrooms hoping to help kids build character, develop empathy and learn to create a positive future through creative dramatics activities.