The new school year always brings a sense of excitement for children. It’s that time of year when days are filled with school supply lists, thoughts of new teachers and bus pick-up times. They can’t wait to see their friends, meet new ones and see what the new year will hold. This is also a time when many parents start to make plans for all the things they know will come…things that aren’t quite as exciting as homework and studying. Before your child resettles into their routine, sit with them and talk about the new year, about expectations and how they can succeed.
I had that talk with my child this past week, as she enters her last year of middle school and takes a high school class for the first time. Amidst the discussion of GPA, college admission requirements and end-of-year exams, we also talked about another subject I feel is equally important – dating abuse. We talked about the early warning signs of dating abuse from boys that might like her, and how she needs to watch for those signs in her friends relationships too.
At Harbor House we know how important it is for children to not only recognize the warning signs of abuse and bullying, but also how to intervene. The Little Leaders and Leaders of Courage programs work to end bullying and abuse not just by helping youth recognize it, but also by giving them the tools to stop it. Studies now show that bullies grow up to be abusers. Our children must be empowered to act so we can stem the tide of dating abuse and domestic violence.
Please have this talk with your child. They will, without a doubt, be put in a situation where they’ll see another child being bullied. It may be someone in their class, at lunch or on the playground. How will your child respond? Will they watch, laugh (even in discomfort) or worse yet…participate. They need the tools and the permission from you to be a hero and stand up to bullying.
Here are a few tips from our Little Leaders program:
- If you see someone being bullied or abused ALWAYS speak to an adult/teacher/administrator right away. Never intervene if you don’t feel safe in doing so.
- Bullying and abuse is painful emotionally and the victim may need the help of an adult to be safe.
- If you do feel comfortable intervening, respectfully approach the bully and communicate how you feel. That bullying is NOT okay. Always tell an adult what happened.
- It’s also important to report bullying on any social networking sites (it is anonymous!). Talk to your child about how to do this. Visit http://www.internetsafety101.org/SNSsafety.htm for safety tips and tools.
- You can always report abuse anonymously by calling 1-800-423-TIPS, visiting www.speakouthotline.org or by texting “Speakout” to CRIMES (274637).
So, talk to your child before they go back to school. Tell them what to look for and how to intervene. At the end of the day, when the bell rings, your child will walk away as a Little Leader as well.
– Carol Wick
Carol is the CEO of Harbor House of Central Florida (http://www.harborhousefl.com), the county’s only certified Domestic Violence agency. She has extensive experience working, not only in the field of women’s issues, but in trauma and child abuse. JDSA works closely with Carol and Harbor House as strategic planning partners for a variety of fundraising events, producing PSA’s, commercials and writing web-based content.