It’s not hard for many of us to remember the first time we might have been pushed around by someone our own age or, perhaps, a little older. It might have been for lunch money, or some territorial dispute, as it was for me when I was a kid.
It might have been for the way we looked, or how tall or short we might have been, or how much we weighed. It seemed like our peers were relentless in finding reasons to push us around or make fun of us.
Sometimes, that also meant exclusion from groups. Painful stuff coming from our peers, right?
It’s bad now, too, and it’s even worse with the 24/7 onslaught of social media attacks.
As if the struggles for adolescents and teens are not bad enough peer to peer, there’s a growing number of cases where the bullying isn’t happening solely among kids around the same age.
It is happening directly from the parents, as this article on adult social engineering exposes.
This post, published by Lisa Barr back in 2012 on her website, Girlilla Warfare: A Mom’s Guide to Surviving the Suburban Jungle, struck me personally, as I have seen firsthand the bullying parents can do to exclude or isolate their own children’s peers. Whether it is a birthday party, at school, or an extra-curricular activity or team, parents play a powerful role in both the positive and negative dynamics of their children’s relationships, often putting their sons and daughters in the uncomfortable position of shunning or bullying friends.
It’s a concern that was discussed nationally in 2011, when The Today Show featured “Monsters in Minivans” and was later covered in-depth in this article titled, “Meet The Newest Bully On The Block: The Mean Mom.”
We have heard the tragic outcomes of such selfish acts all across the country, dating back to 2006 when one mom created a fictitious MySpace account and bullied her daughter’s friend (“Parents: Cyberbullying Led To Teen’s Suicide“). Soon thereafter, the bullied 13 year old hanged herself in her bedroom closet.
The link between bullying and depression in adolescents and teens is very strong; when parents get involved, it makes the situation even more dangerous for children who struggle with self-confidence, acceptance or a mental illness.
Parents have the opportunity to play an important, positive role in the lives of their own children, as well as their children’s peers. Practicing inclusion instead of exclusion, opening the doors for invitations and gatherings instead of closing them, and providing a genuine, nurturing environment for all is part of establishing a foundation of wellness and self-confidence.
Our children are vulnerable. There are times when they need the security of an adult to provide a safe space for them that is judge-free and welcoming. If the individuals who should be role models in the lives of our teens begin to behave as middle-school adolescents, our children have no one left to turn to.
Parents, be the origin of wellness, not depression, for your community’s youngsters. Show them the strength that kindness, friendship, and love can foster. They need us more than they will ever let us know.
Remember: You Are Never Alone.