As a Conflict Resolution Specialist for more than a decade, I hear lots of stories from children. As a result, I’m rarely surprised or stunned by what I hear. You might say I’m a little jaded or desensitized. So when I heard a story that stunned me, I had to share it.
I recently began volunteering as a Sunday School teacher at my church. I usually work with middle and high school students, so working with elementary school aged children was a welcomed change of pace.
Sunday’s class was unusually small, consisting of just three children; a third grader, fourth grader and a sixth grader. All delightful children, eager to learn the day’s lesson. The lesson focused on the light of Jesus, that helps with hidden problems. I was assuring the children that Jesus would help them with their problems, including the ones that were hidden.
One boy, the fourth grader, told me of a problem he had with some of his friends who teased other children. He stated he didn’t think it was the right thing to do. He considered it bullying. But he was afraid if he told them not to tease others they would turn and tease him instead.
I agreed with him, I too, thought it was bullying. I explained I considered him a victim of bullying. I shared with him the meaning of a “vicarious victim,” being one who witnesses bullying and is afraid of becoming the next target.
We discussed how he should tell a “Trusted Adult”. I pointed out Trusted Adults were ones who would listen, keep his confidences and would really try to help him. I helped the children understand they should look for adults who met this criteria and share with them whenever they were really sad. I explained sometimes when children are teased or bullied they feel very sad and do things to hurt themselves or others.
Much to my amazement, two hands shot into the air (remember, there were only three children in the room). “Ms. D, I know a girl who hung herself because she was being teased”, exclaimed the fourth grade boy.
“I know someone, too, who killed themselves because they were bullied”, shouted the third grade girl.
The boy elaborated, “Yes, you know her she went to our school!”
“I know her, but that’s not who I’m talking about. I’m talking about ***, she killed herself too. She had problems and people kept teasing her. She just couldn’t take it anymore!”
“Oh yeah, I knew her, I forgot about that.”
So inside I’m going, Oh My God! These children are only eight, nine and eleven!
“Hey you guys, we need to change the subject. This is making Ms. D very sad and I’m afraid I’ll start crying. It won’t look good for someone to walk in here and see the teacher crying.”
“Ms. D, why are you about to cry?” asked the oldest of the three, another boy.
“I am so sad that young children even know what suicide is, let alone know people who have killed themselves. That isn’t something children should know about, and they sure shouldn’t have experienced it.”
“Ms. D, she wasn’t that young, she was a teenager. Well, no not a teenager, but she wasn’t that young, she was 12!”
Lord, help me! Please help these children’s parents. These parents have done all they know to keep their children safe. Remember, I am talking to children who are in Sunday School, so their parents understand the importance of having a strong spiritual foundation. The parents have gone the extra mile to place their children in private school. All of these children attend Christian schools.
The deadly mistake? Believing it couldn’t happen to your children.
Bullying happens everywhere children gather: public schools, private schools, parochial schools, summer camps, youth groups, etc.
Bullying doesn’t take the summer off!
What would your reaction be if we could help you?
There are solutions to this problem. There are things parents can do.
Kids First Conflict Resolution and Training Services offers We Don’t Tolerate Bullying! There is something parents can do training for parents. For more information go to www.WeDontTolerateBullying.com. Do you have questions about bullying? Go to Facebook.com/AskMsDAboutBullying. Let Kids First help you keep your children safe this summer.
Deborah Thorne, Ms. D to thousands of children. Founder and Chief Conflict Resolution Specialist of Kids First Conflict Resolution and Training Services (providing comprehensive conflict resolution solutions for children, churches and communities) and Deborah Thorne and Associates (conflict management for a safer workplace).