My story is one of heartbreak and triumph, one that many readers may be familiar with. My son, at 12 years old, was bullied at school. He was taunted mercilessly by a group of children verbally and at times, physically. Once he began high school the problem only increased and became more sinister, as the perpetrators multiplied and shared their insults on social media. My son’s confidence plummeted and he lost many friends due to the pressure they encountered to avoid contact with him.
As a parent, the most difficult part was overcoming my feelings of helplessness. I was torn between my desire to seek justice and my son’s desire to independently face the situation. My first instinct (which I term the “lioness” response), was to protect my child and go in fighting. I avowed to confront the parents, contact the school principal and the police to bring the perpetrators to justice. However, my son was adamant that this approach would only add fuel to the fire, causing further assaults as a result. I agonised over his request, which highlighted my own fear and insecurity.
My anxiety was amplified as a result of my own experience with bullying, which took place over a period of time in a variety of settings. The impact of the negative words and actions of these people was devastating, resulting in fear so overwhelming that I completely withdrew from life. However, as a mum I was determined to model health and wholeness to my sons. So, I sought support and wise council from trusted family and friends and fostered mindfulness (in the form of prayer). However, it was a difficult and painful process.
For this reason, I was desperate to spare my son a similar experience. Yet, my husband and I believed that empowering him to make the choice to handle the issue was best for his self-esteem and confidence. So, we resolved to support his decision to independently deal with the situation. I did, however, check in with him every day, continually providing support and encouragement. His mobile phone was necessary to maintain parent support and communication, however it was carefully monitored.
Drawing on courage that defied logic, he faced the perpetrators at school and bravely held his ground. Eventually, the children involved gave up as their insults and harassment became less effective. My son had refused to allow their words and actions to overwhelm him. It took a year for him to regain his self-esteem and a sense of self-worth. However, he is now a confident and socially competent young man.
My recommendation to parents experiencing a similar situation would be to listen to your child. Listen with your heart, eyes, ears, and mind. Watch for signs of harm (physically or mentally) in which case immediate action is necessary. Contact with school and/or police must be made if a serious incident or crime has been committed. It is also important to seek support from a trusted friend or councillor if you need advice on any issue. Bullying. No Way! is a government website has useful information and contact can be made if needed (1).
I believe the positive outcome in our experience can be attributed to a number of key issues. These are highlighted in Dr. Brené Brown’s book “Daring Greatly” where she discusses the 10 most important qualities resilient people possess (2). I have listed three of these which both my son and I cultivated on the road to wholeness.
- We cultivated authenticity and let go of what people think. We will always need acceptance as it is a core need for every human being. However, we must not allow others cruel and damaging words to take root in our hearts. My greatest challenge was trusting others after being so badly wounded. I took each tentative step and “tested the waters” to ensure people were ‘safe’ before asking for help. But, I’m so glad I did. For I realised that true joy and fulfilment are only possible as we become authentic and vulnerable with trusted loved ones.
- We cultivated gratitude and joy and let go of fear. Gratitude and joy are vital as they help us to rise above our circumstances, allowing us to see life’s treasures. Our family began a ‘gratitude’ jar. At the dinner table each evening we shared something we were grateful for. This ‘mindful’ exercise is one we often share; helping us to reflect on life’s treasured moments.
- We cultivated laughter, song and dance and let go of “being cool” and in control. I’m a huge advocate for indulging in fun and “play”. It’s so important to allow ourselves “be” in the moment. Every moment we have with our loved ones is precious and I realised that they should not be wasted or taken for granted. There is so much to be grateful for. My family are at the top of the list.
The experiences I endured were painful, yet the end result was one of courage and hope. I have found renewed joy and freedom and desire to help others experience the same.
My son (now 17) is a talented and highly creative musician, studying and producing a diverse range of music which he recently shared with the public on ‘SoundCloud’. It is wonderful to see him overcome the negative experiences and share his creative talents.
Dianna’s goal is to inspire others on her blog “Firebrand” where she shares her passion for creativity through a range of artistic projects. You can visit here blog here.
(1). ©2018 Bullying No Way! Government website for Australian schools and parents
(2). “Daring Greatly” by Dr. Brene Brown ©2012