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Holiday Disconnect for Children

Look for the heroes tucked into this true story of resilience…

Steven.

Steven, a friendly and lighthearted 11-year-old boy comes home every day from school for a week and is more quiet than usual. After being adopted from Africa at age 5, he attends the same school since kindergarten.

Normally upbeat with a fairly close group of friends, he now answers his parent’s questions about his day in one word answers. They ask, How was school today? In a flat tone he answers with an unsatisfactory, fine. Then goes quiet. His normal enthusiasm for video games and soccer is missing. He’s suddenly not even interested in pizza bagels, his absolute favorite after school snack.

At the very end of the week, Steven finally opens up. The kids he thought were his friends suddenly won’t let him sit at the lunch table. With no other choice, he sits by himself.

Although confused, he goes about his day but on Friday it gets worse. They start calling him a traitor for sitting somewhere else which makes no sense. One of the boys boldly shoves him. Steven’s now a bit scared so he finally opens up to his parents.

STEVEN’S TRUSTED ADULTS

Steven’s mom and dad are calm on the outside but of course, on high alert on the inside. They listen and although brokenhearted at his description of the meanness, they keep their wits about them and start to strategize. They offer to let Steven stay home on Monday but to their surprise he stands up a little taller and says, no. He doesn’t want to shrink away.

It’s not clear on how to handle it. Steven has no idea of why this group calls him a traitor and he fears if he tells the principal or teacher, it will get worse. Although most kids are excited because the holidays are coming, Steven feels suddenly alone.

UNPREDICTABLE HEROES

It feels bleak. But there’s a crack of light. The lunchroom monitor notices the change of behavior of the six boys causing the problem. She lets it go for the first few days but mentions it to the assistant principal. It turns out that a female classmate at a nearby table also sees Steven being shoved. She quietly goes to the teacher and fills her in at the end of the day on Friday.

After an agonizing weekend and as Steven gets ready for school, his parents get an email. The assistant principal would like to have a meeting. They arrange it for Tuesday morning and write down notes so they can remain unemotional.

When Steven comes home Monday afternoon, his parents anxiously ask about his day. He says simply, not great but ok. He says that a few other kids asked him to sit at their table. He still feels awkward but it’s better than sitting alone.

SUPERHEROES UNITE. WE’RE IN THIS TOGETHER.

Before the meeting, Steven’s parents ask him how he would like them to handle it. He says he doesn’t want to get the other kids in trouble, he just wants to go back being friends. He misses playing soccer with them at recess.

Of the six boys, the one who shoved Steven is disciplined. It is school policy, the administrator explains. The others were talked to individually and warned. It turns out that the ringleader had also bullied them into being mean to Steven.

It takes a while but Steven goes back to playing soccer at recess and has included not only a few of his old friends but one boy he met from the new lunch table.

The issue of bullying prevention is messy and complicated. A tangled ball. There are no two children, parents, schools, situations, challenges or solutions that are the same. But what is universal is there can always be a hero, whether it’s the parent, lunchroom monitor, school administrator, classmate, or the resilient target who stands up straighter and refuses to crumble.

WE CAN ALL BE A LEADER.

And the young ringleader? Because someone paid attention to him, too, he can also grow up to be the right kind of leader.

In the spirit of the holidays and its messages of spreading kindness, thank you for raising and teaching superheroes.

“Thank you to our teachers, guides and mentors who expanded us and enlightened us with their wisdom.” – Every Day Spirit by Mary Davis