Stop Bullying — Saying Hello Is A Good Place To Start
It’s back to school time, again. Whether you have school children or not, it’s obvious that the annual ritual has begun. Just pop into your local Target, and you’ll see the shelves filled with #2 pencils and brightly colored notebooks. My daughter is starting high school, so there’s lots of excitement and outfit planning going on in our house. It’s a milestone in her life, and I’m glad she’s facing it with joy and eagerness. Still, it got me thinking about other kids.
Sadly, for some students, summer break is a break from not fitting in – a respite from teasing… a holiday from mean words, and, in some cases, physical abuse.
Not only do kids face the emotional and physical fights many parents and their friends faced, but, many kids these days also are tormented by digital bullying. We’ve all seen news reports about kids who were cyber-bullied and ended up taking their own lives. It’s horrific and a whole new front to fight in an age-old dilemma. That’s the extreme but, for some kids, the day-to-day barrage of mean words and regular ostracizing makes school a scary place. If you don’t feel safe, how can you learn?
According to statistics reported by ABC News, nearly 30 percent of U.S. students are either bullies or victims of bullying, and 160,000 kids stay home from school every day because of fear of bullying. (bullyingstatistics.org)
I remember a kid in my high school taking his own life. I don’t know why. In fact, I barely knew him. He was perceived as an odd kid who sat in the back of the room and was almost invisible. Could a kind word from me have changed things for him? Maybe. Probably.
With all the tragic school shootings across our country, including here in Colorado, what if those alienated kids who took all those young lives felt more included and loved?
In Sweden, there was a boy who wanted to make a difference. He started saying Hello to a girl whom nobody noticed. (Well, in Swedish, he actually said, “Hej,” but you get the idea.) That one, seemingly simple act of kindness turned into an anti-bullying movement called Friends, created by the young girl who no longer felt alone and unseen. That movement, now the largest anti-bullying organization in Sweden, has crossed the ocean; a Friends nonprofit currently is being established here in Colorado. Their goal is to make every child feel safe and comfortable in school, in sports, and on social media by educating and supporting schools and youth sports clubs.
It got me thinking. While we are preparing our kids for the school year by making sure they have the right supplies, a sturdy backpack, and a new outfit for the first day, we also should arm them with a mission – compassion. Say hello to the kid in the back of the room. Stick up for the kid who is getting teased. Invite the quiet kid to sit at your table for lunch. For starters, I’m going to show my kids this video. While it’s in Swedish, the visual is impactful and the message universal. Friends Anti-Bullying Video
Let’s work together to make sure the invisible kids are able to come out of their shells, one Hello (or Hej) at a time.
More blogs by Jen at CrossCourt Creative.