How is it that it’s become almost common to read about young kids who have committed suicide due to bullying. Just this past weekend, it only took me a couple of minutes to find three news stories relating to three different kids growing up in three different places — The Wall Street Journal, The Irish Times and KLAS-TV — but who have one horrible thing in common. They took their own lives.
Are we in danger of thinking this is normal? Bullying is so complicated. A tangled mess of factors make it hard to tackle — but there are things we can do.
A leading problem:
#1: Kids Feel Alone
Kids feel alone when they are bullied. For every horrible extreme tragic story of suicide, there are hundreds, maybe thousands of kids who are walking around with similar pain and are struggling to figure it out for themselves.
Experts usually advise kids to go tell someone — a trusted adult.
Why is it that many kids don’t tell an adult? Answer: They’re afraid we don’t really understand the situation and we’ll make it worse. They are often right.
Part of a Solution?
We can start bridging this gap between adults and kids when they’re young. We can empower them in school and home with an expectation on how to treat others and how to be treated, set a school climate where it’s not cool to be the bully, and engage adults by guiding them in some basic “do’s” and “don’t’s” when communicating with — or acting on behalf — of a child.
If kids feel we’re not going to overreact — or under react — or not judge them — or embarrass them, then they might start sharing more. We might be able to hear the pain in their voice and at the very least reassure them that they are valuable. If kids understand early on that they can get the validation they need to stop their emotions from spiraling, that skill may be invaluable as they get older.
I once heard an expert say, that as a child, you only need one person to get you in order to be ok. (It was Gary Neuman who helps, among others, children of divorce.) That’s so hopeful, especially if we all understand that we can be that one person who makes a child feel like they’re ok.
October is National Bullying Prevention Month. Kathryn Otoshi, author of One, and I are proud to have created materials for elementary schools that allow kids to identify their “Be the One Go-To Adult,” (hopefully in advance of a problem) and provide the adults in their life with some basic tools and advice to help them “Be the One BEST Go-To Adult” possible.
We would be honored if you downloaded the Be the One Go-To Adult Certificate and the Be the One Go-To Adult Congratulatory Letter for your school or after school program. Could it mean life or death to a child? Maybe by using tools like these and working together we won’t find out.
Sometimes It Just Takes One.