I grew up being bullied but, to be honest with you, back in those days, it was not like it was today. A bully might emotionally abuse you with teasing, maybe knock your desk over, but at least among the girls, there was barely any violence, no theft. Now the stories I hear are hair-raising.
Is middle school bullying a given?
Having a daughter with Down syndrome poised to enter a middle school that already sounds like it’s having problems and with a whole new class of kids, I’m concerned that bullying might be in my daughter’s future experiences and I know firsthand how difficult that is for a teen. What will I teach her?
Commend your schools on what it’s done right
To date, her school has done a great job. Zoe’s teacher knew when to pull her away from the others for the protection of her own reputation, which is a gift. Overall, students are taught to care about each other. Amelia has a natural propensity for this. Before the first grade, she attended in-class summer school and nurtured a child who was wheelchair bound and had significant learning delays. I am proud to tell you that my daughter was the one who made sure he came or caught up with group, who encouraged him, who befriended him. (Actually, it gives me a lump in my throat to think about it. I am in no way this gifted with nurturing, neither is my husband, it’s just a gift my sweet girl was blessed with.)
Have your school support inclusion
We left the old school because they did not include her. Amelia had 0 friends after kindergarden. At her current school, they not only encourage teamwork, they encourage the kids to say, “I see you.” (If you’re thinking about “Avatar,” you’re on the right track.) It’s worked wonderfully. The kids there don’t see Amelia as someone disabled but as the fun girl who always has a kind word and throws herself into her work. The whole of a classroom is really a community and everyone wants to be her friend.
Teach them their own worth
At home, you have to give your kids self-worth. I believe that my kids were created by God with a purpose and I teach them that – and that they are loved exactly as they are now and that they can always improve themselves with hard work. It’s a challenge to teach both humility and self-confidence but necessary. Still, I focus on their strengths and remind them of them daily.
Teach them to value others
I think this is key, too. Respect, brotherly love, friendship – it all begins with getting to know others. The shy kid is at a disadvantage, so is the kid who can’t communicate easily for whatever reason. Parents, teachers, neighbors and friends need to find ways to include all the kids – to show the worth and value of every child to the team, the town, the class, the neighborhood – whatever. Every kid has this his or her value, it’s up to the adults to organize ways that these values can be shared among them all.
Is your child a victim of bullying? Tina Meier is an international bullying expert, who lost her 13 year old daughter to suicide after several bullying incidents. Her video on what to do if your child is being bullied but the school is not responsive is a must-see for anyone with a child in this kind of situation:
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