Can we do a feelings check?
Right now, I’m feeling… irritated. And sad. But also proud. All at the same time.
I recently got an Email from a super awesome, stronger-than-he-knows reader who shared that he was struggling with being bullied at school. He wrote to ask if I had ever been teased in middle or high school, and whether I had any advice.
This is where the proud part comes in. It takes an incredibly strong person to acknowledge when he or she is struggling, and to reach out for help. There are LOTS (and I do mean LOTS) of adults who aren’t mature enough to do this. So if you’re reading this, super-awesome-stronger-than-you-know reader, kudos. Thanks for speaking up. I really believe that it’s the first step in changing your situation at school. And since bullying is such a problem in schools everywhere– you inspired me to do a related blog post.
Before I say anything else, a boring but necessary disclaimer. Even though I went to school to be a counselor, I’m not a practicing therapist right now. None of what I say below, or in any blog post or Email, is meant as therapeutic advice, or counseling. And because everyone’s situations are so different, and we only know each other over the Internet, it’s not safe, or smart, or ethical (which is just a fancy way of saying “right”) for me to offer therapeutic advice over Email or in a blog post. I just can’t do it. So consider the thoughts below to be a few musings from a gal who used to be in middle school, and knows how rough it can be. (Ohh, how rough. I just had a couple flashbacks. Yikes.)
Okay, now on to the important stuff. Like how I’m feeling irritated and sad that we even have to talk about bullying. WHY CAN’T WE ALL JUST GET ALONG?
In his Email, the reader asked if I had ever been bullied. My honest-to-goodness response to that is this: I think kids in schools today have it so much harder than I did.
Tell us more, grandma!
Well, certainly, whippersnappers. In my day, we didn’t have twitter, or Facebook, or cell phones (or at least, I didn’t)– and that can make bullying so much worse. That said, I do know what it’s like to be teased. My family moved around a fair amount when I was in school, and while I was generally pretty good at making new friends, there were always those kids who seemed to “have it it for the new kid”. And that never felt good.
I’m sure there are lots of you out there who can identify with this problem. Maybe you’re being bullied or teased because you look different, or act different, or because some not-so-nice girl thinks your SUPER COOL Hello Kitty lunchbox is babyish. (Anyone? No? Just me? Okay, then.) Maybe you’ve gone to a parent or another grown-up to ask for help. Maybe they’ve said one or both of the following:
1. Ignore the bully, and he/she will lose interest and go away.
2. This will get better when you’re older.
No offense, parents, but this is pretty terrible advice. First of all, the ignore-it-and-it-will-go-away strategy doesn’t always work. Second of all, YES! It WILL get better when you’re older! I PROMISE! However, between the ages of 7 and 18, approximately, most of us still have to go to lunch, and class, and gym, and it would be really nice if those years didn’t suck. Dodgeball and algebra are hard enough as it is.
So in the meantime, what to do?
Without knowing each and every person’s individual struggles, I truly believe that going to a school counselor is the best thing you can do when you’re struggling with a bully. The cool thing about counselors is that they have to keep most things, even the fact that you went to see them, confidential. (Why, oh why, must adults come up with big words like “confidential”, when really they just mean “secret”?) So that means if you tell your school counselor that you ate chocolate cake for breakfast when your mom wasn’t looking, and turned your underwear inside out today because who has time to do laundry?… they can’t tell a soul. Not even your mom, who would probably be grossed out at both these things.
But in all seriousness, school counselors are there to help. So use them! In my experience, it’s always helpful to talk things over with someone I trust, whether that be a counselor, a parent, or a loyal friend. Do you know what’s never been helpful for me? Keeping my problems bottled up inside.
Okay, time to step down from my soap box.
I’ll close with a plea. Be nice. It’s a good general rule. You know, for life.
Take care of each other,