When asked what was of most concern about returning to school after the Christmas break, one mother said, "Bullying!" And I am sure this concern is not unique to her.
I could talk about prevention mechanisms, protection processes, rights and responsibilities... but that probably wouldn't help and I will discuss this elsewhere. And I can't stop the bullying or the possibility of bullying, though like many I would love to have a magic wand that waves and makes everyone buddies.
So today I just want to share some hope...
With our support, with the love and care of important people around them, children who have been bullied can not only survive - but can conquer.
Take Tom Cruise for example.
His difficulties with academics due to dyslexia, and his constant moving from school to school meant that he was a target of bullying. But with the love and encouragement of his mother, and his dogged determination, he has made something of himself.
I wonder where his bullies are now?
Then there is Kate Winslet.
Being overweight, she was taunted about this for two years. But with the supporting ear of her mother, and a friendship that made her feel secure in herself, she has had success both in her work and her personal life.
I wonder if those who bullied her ever feel regret?
Then there is Harrison Ford.
Small, shy, a little different, he was the ideal target for bullying. But with an attitude of endurance, an attitude said to be very annoying to his attackers, he came out the other side.
I wonder what his tormentors think about him now?
While I can't tell them here, I know stories of "real" people for whom friendships, strong determination, self-esteem, humour or the love of a parent or mentor have made a significant difference in their battle against bullying.
The experience of being bullied does leave scars, and the effects should not be romanticised or down-played. But those scars can be turned to good account in our lives. The need for determination and endurance can help us succeed. The questioning of our value by others can help us examine and learn to rate our value by those who care most.
So, though I know this post won't cure the knot in your stomach, or dry the tears of distress when trying to help your child deal with bullying, my wish is that these stories will help you look forward in hope. That they will help you and your child face bullying with determination, not defeat. That you and your child will continue to pursue your dreams, to value self and life, to talk about the hard times, to build connections, to love, to laugh, to play....
Bullying is painful and can change the course of a life, but it need not be the end of the world.
Talk. Love. Grow.