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The news is filled with stories of bullied kids committing suicide. Just this morning I read a story about an Ohio school that buried four kids who killed themselves after being mercilessly taunted for being gay, foreign, or just plain different. The most chilling part? When the reporter explained how some of those bullies had the nerve to show up at one of the funerals and laugh at the dead child in her coffin.

I have recounted my own experiences with bullying. As bad as it got — and it was pretty bad — I never considered suicide. I was too afraid of death, and didn’t want those bastards to win. I knew junior high and high school was just a blip on my timeline. I knew the torment would end eventually. Did it suck that no one helped me? Sure did, but I got through it. And that’s what I am thinking needs to get out there. Yes, in theory anti-bullying programs are great, but they don’t seem to be making a dent. Kids are still getting bullied, and with the Internet it’s probably far, far worse than it ever was. At least my hell ended when the school bell rang. Today, kids are stalked virtually via text, Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace. And as those laughing bullies at the funeral prove: You really can’t change most of the bullies. Which means we’ve got to take care of the bullied.

What needs to happen is that the kids who are being bullied have to be told that it will end. There’s a really touching video making the rounds right now on Facebook. Several, actually. Ellen DeGeneres posted a video soon after Tyler Clamenti died. Tim Gunn also created a video. The video– It Will Get Better — and the messages it contains were produced for gay and transgender teens, but could apply to anyone who is being bullied:

  • There are people out there who can help you.
  • Suicide isn’t the answer.
  • There are plenty of other people who have traveled through hell and survived.

Last weekend I was reading some American Girl book to Big Girl, and, because of the story, she asked me what I was like as a teenager. “What did you do when you were a teenager,” she wanted to know. I told her the truth: I was very sad and unhappy. I didn’t have many friends, and I hated school. But look at Mommy, today, I told her. Mommy has too many friends now! And I’m happy. I have you, I have Daddy, I have our family, my career, yoga. (Note to friends: The too many friends part is obviously not really true.) I told her that things always have a way of working out, and that I would be there for her if she ever needed me. And that she should talk to me if she was ever so scared or in such pain that she couldn’t handle it on her own.

So I’d implore every parent out there to have a talk with their kids today. Tell them the truth about life. It’s hard sometimes, but you just have to keep looking ahead to a day when it might get better.

Have a fun weekend. Here in the Northeast U.S. we’re solidly in the middle of fall weather. Cooler temps and lots of sun should make for a pretty weekend. What’s it like in your neck of the woods?

3 Responses to “Bullying: As Tim Gunn Says, It Will Get Better”

  1. Hmmm… Not sure that I agree with your approach, but I DO agree that parents should be talking more with their children, so that children about these difficult subjects. And, I think I wrote this on your blog before, I agree that bullies are bullies, and I’m not quite sure we can “turn” them and make them kinder, gentler. But what we CAN do — and, not that I’m plugging, but the book I recently worked on, Good Girls Don’t Get Fat, by Robyn Silverman talks about this — is put a curriculum in place at schools to help administrators, teachers and counselors deal with bullying. There should be no shrugged shoulders or throwing up of hands. Not so much a Zero Tolerance policy, but real-life guidelines on what to do when these things happen, so that our kids can feel safe in school too. :)

  2. kb says:

    Oooh, Dina! Tell me what was wrong with my approach! I am serious. I sometimes think that my terrible experiences cloud my vision when it comes to this stuff. I know I am not perfect, and not always right. I’d love to hear what you think I should be doing differently.

    As for the curriculum: I think it speaks to the teaching bullied kids they are not alone statement. They are going to be bullied, but at least if they feel that people care…well, that goes a long way.

  3. Hey, Karen! Just what you said… You may not want to cloud your daughter’s perception before she has the chance to evaluate the school experience on her own. But I understand the desire to share what you’ve learned, and I think that’s very important. I have said similar things to my kids as you’ve said — that there’s a whole wide world beyond high school — but it was AFTER they experienced a bullying incident, in order to make them know that what they’re experiencing right now is just a small part of life, even though it doesn’t feel that way to them. Also, keep in mind, I am as clueless a parent as anyone else and am learning as I go. :)

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