As parents, we are often overwhelmed by the responsibilities of daily life. Sometimes we are tired and irritable when we get home from work, and the thought of going one more place, doing one more thing is just too much. Let me just say this. Our own emotions, and most especially, logistics, should never get in the way of being present to, and helping our children.
I’m often asked what my own mom and dad did during my lonely school years that helped. It was something so remarkably simple, but it saved my life, and it could save your child’s life too.
For most bullied students, whether it’s the child who’s overtly abused or the one who’s ignored and excluded day after day, it’s the relentless loneliness that is often hardest to bear. While all the other kids from school are hanging out together, going to parties and having fun, you’re sitting at home, aching to be a part of it, waiting for invitations that never come. I remember those dark moments well, and if your child is experiencing a similar sense of isolation, you need to understand that every child needs friends and a social life, and this is doubly true for bullied kids. If school doesn’t yield this companionship, seek an interim social life for your child, somewhere he or she can participate with other peers in an activity they enjoy.
Believe it or not, local park districts and libraries are wonderful outlets and can be a lifeline for lonely teens. Reach out to the park district and local library the nearest next town over from where you live that doesn’t feed into your child’s school, and ask them to email or fax you their list of organized activities for kids. They often will have everything from soccer and cheerleading, to dance, computer clubs, and Reader’s Theater, among other options that your child can participate in. My mom enrolled me in a youth community theater program where I finally found other kids my own age that I fit in with.
It’s vital, however, that you go one town over, because if a child is being bullied at school and engages in a park district activity with those same classmates, it defeats the purpose, which is to provide the experience of a fresh start with new faces. You can achieve two objectives by enrolling your child in a park district or library activity: on the days school feels especially lonely, your child has something to look forward to; additionally, this new social outlet will likely boost his confidence, and the more confident he is, the less of a target he will be at school. This will also buy you the necessary time to address any bullying issues with the school.
One of the biggest mistakes parents make is that they become so immersed in trying to deal with the school once they discover there’s a problem, which they forget to tend to their bleeding child first. And make no mistake. The bullied child is bleeding, but they’re bleeding in the form of loneliness. You can stop that bleeding by finding your child a source for friendship, but you must act swiftly, definitively, and follow up. Don’t just print out the brochures from the park district and leave them on a table. Show them to your child, choose an activity together, then pick up the phone, and make it happen.
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