You might think you’re alone, with nowhere to turn. You might feel the world is collapsing in around you, suffocating your every breath and it feels like it’s not worth it anymore. Let me tell you right out of the gate:
You’re not alone and it will get better.
October is National Bullying Prevention Month in the United States. Every seven minutes, another boy or girl is bullied on a playground, on the bus, online, or on the sports field.
Each year, that amounts to over 75,000 children. Your children. Your niece. Your nephew. Your godchild. Your neighbor. You.
Seeing the statistics is awful. But being the target of bullying? That’s even worse.
How do I know? Because that was me in elementary school.
I’ve lived my entire life with a speaking disability – a stutter – which I have worked on since entering speech class at the age of four. And this probably won’t surprise you, but middle school kids did have a tendency to bully me for that stutter.
Sometimes I would get caught up on a word or sound, or know that I stuttered through introducing myself in the 7th grade football video and having to sit there when the entire class watched.
I truly don’t think most people intended to hurt me by snickering. Maybe that’s just my optimism in fellow humans, but regardless, I heard it and it hurt. I still do at age 24, though, luckily, it’s much less frequent.
(Author’s note: If you do come across a stutterer, like me, in the future, try not to rush them, finish their sentences, or say “did you forget your name?”)
While my days were never unbearably rough – credit it to having “tough skin” or laughing it off, bullying is not a laughing matter. It did affect me. It still affects me and it’s shaped who I am as a person. I don’t feel emotionally scarred, but find myself being very observant to prejudices and discriminatory acts happening around me. It’s one of those social justice issues I’m really proud to fight for.
Now, just because I might not have had the worse cases of bullying, it doesn’t mean others had it easy. Some have it every day; on the bus, the playground, during school, after school, and wherever else you can imagine wanting to fit in. It can be horrendous and even make victims believe life isn’t worth living.
I, fortunately, had great parents and friends who stuck up for me and never let my confidence level drop. With a strong support network I was able to turn a little heartbreak into empathy for others but that isn’t always the case for those who are bullied. Some spend a long time trying to regain self-esteem while others perpetuate the cycle by bullying others.
In third grade, after a kid who was a year older than me bullied me on the bus, my dad promptly marched down the street and to his front door. The issues abruptly stopped after that.
Some parents may not want to fight their children’s battles but when it comes to bullying, parents need to step up. The issue of bullying is too important to be left to a 10-year old to figure out.
Share this message with your child: Things. Will. Get. Better.
You will grow up. Your acne, body issues, or braces will eventually disappear. You leave middle school behind, move on to high school and then possibly college, and meet the best people in the world and they won’t care for a second that you have a stutter, or a disability. They will like you for who you are inside. They will wait for your words because they know you have something valuable to contribute.
Your life matters and you should live it to the fullest no matter what others say. Because one day you’ll be thinking back on your life, remembering all the wonderful moments you’ve had with family and friends, and realize that your younger years might have been rocky, but they don’t define who you are.
You define your life’s path. Embrace that path. Embrace yourself. Embrace your differences and then show the world, and those bullying you, that nobody can keep you down. Surround yourself with great people who uplift and support you and never fail to stand up against bullying when you see it around you. Sometimes your voice is the only one that can help change a life.
Stutter or no stutter, I always speak my truth.
If you do feel that life’s rocky moments are becoming too much, please, seek out someone to talk to. The Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline (1.800.4.A.CHILD) can be that someone. It’s available 24/7/365 and offers confidential crisis counselors who are able to speak on a plethora of issues and offer guidance and resources.
Social Media Specialist