I’m one of many faces. A survivor of relentless, non-stop, horrendous bullying. I survived my school years by clinging to the hope that one day; they would be over. My bullying years lasted through late elementary school right up to grade 10, I contemplated suicide more than once. I was teased, taunted and hit more times then I can count. I feared going to school everyday and having to face my bullies. At 13 years old, I was scared to go to school. I was lucky in the sense that when I was in school, the bullying stopped once I left. My home was my sanctuary, I had friends I could be myself with and not be worried about the abuse.
Times have changed, bullying happens everywhere now. Home, work, cyber space, across cubicles and water coolers it has become ever-present in our children’s (and our) lives. It is not okay. It doesn’t just “get better”. You are no longer a target, but you will have always been a victim. Many children carry the scars of bullying right into adulthood, myself included.
I am forever self conscious, worried to speak up for fear of being singled out. I shy away from photos because of years of emotional abuse about my awkward looks (thanks pre-teen tara!). I literally felt like nothing as a child thanks to my bullies. In fact, I was told just how worthless I was on a regular basis. I grew up with a single mom who worked long hours to put food on the table, however that meant I didn’t have the newest styles or fashions, or the cool new toys; I had what I needed and that made me a target.
So today, it isn’t just about a pink shirt. A pink shirt is not going to stop a bully. For a split second, the kids are on an equal playing field? Why, because they have on the same colored shirt? No, the poor kid is still poor, the awkward kid is still awkward, and the self conscious kid is still self conscious. In fact, many stories I have read have shown reports of bullying happening ON Pink Shirt Day. This made me sick.
Bullying doesn’t stop with a shirt.
It stops with us.
According to Prevnet.ca;
- Children who are bullied suffer more headaches, stomachaches, depression and anxiety. Mental health problems associated with bullying tend to last until later in life.
- Children who bully, and those who are bullied, are at greater risk of suicide.
- Children who bully, and those who are bullied, will be more likely to miss school, show little interest in their studies and suffer poor grades.
- Children who bully are more likely to use drugs and alcohol and engage in criminal activity. According to one of the world’s leading researchers on bullying, 60% of boys who frequently bullied others in elementary school had criminal records by age 24.
- Approximately 12% of girls and 18% of boys reported bullying others at least twice in previous months. 15% of girls and 18% of boys reported being victimized at least twice over the same time period.
Pink Shirt Day is the perfect opportunity for us as parents to open an honest line of communication with our children. It is our responsibility to watch for the signs of bullying, whether they are being bullied or they are the bully. Take the time to explain and speak acceptance into your children, open their hearts to seeing others for their good qualities. Ask them to embrace a friendship at school that they might otherwise shy away from. Show them love, so they may show love to others. Kids are sponges, they see our behavior and mimic it, sometimes we seem to forget that. Bullying doesn’t just happen at school, it happens everywhere.
Don’t make this one day. It’s a starting point. Anti-bullying is something that needs to be addressed daily and isn’t going to change over night, but this is YOUR chance, MY chance and THEIR chance to START A MOVEMENT.
Some resources to check out for information on how to support a child who is being bullied, or to help a child who may be bullying others – Pink Shirt Day, Wits Bullying Prevention, Prevnet, & Bully Free Zone.
So rock those pink shirts, but take some time today to share the story of how the Pink Shirt started and why it is important to bring awareness to the cause. When your little ones come home from school take time to sit with them and talk about how they (and you!) can make a change. Every kid deserves a childhood free of bullying.