The holidays are upon us, and if you’re a parent of a bullied or ostracized child at school, this time of year can be a mixed blessing. On the one hand, your son or daughter gets a break from the pressure and isolation of school. On the other hand, it can mean long, lonely days waiting for invitations that never come, or worse, hours of cyber-abuse.
I feel for kids today. As a survivor of bullying, I remember how isolated I felt every holiday season. I knew my classmates were attending parties and having sleepovers, while I sat watching Christmas movies with my parents and secretly wishing that something, anything would happen to make my peers see me differently. While other kids were hoping for VCRs (yes, that’s how old I am!) and Sony Walkmen under the tree, I was praying for a different kind of gift – acceptance and knowing what it was like to fit in at school.
I remember those days and how hard it was for me. I can’t even imagine what it must be like today with the Internet. At least when I was a kid, I could escape the abuse of my classmates over the holidays. Although I couldn’t escape the loneliness, I could at least feel safe at home. That’s no longer true in today’s world. The moment a kid turns on their computer or powers up their cell phone, they’re at risk. In fact, cyberbullying can hurt even more than in-person bullying because the bullies can exact their cruelty anonymously.
So what, as a parent, can you do to make your son or daughter’s holidays more bearable?
- Be patient and supportive – expect that being a victim of bullying and exclusion can make a child moody. Try not to take their surliness or frustration personally.
- Have as much activity around the house as possible – invite friends and family over in the days leading up to the holidays. Maintain a festive environment in the home and if your child has cousins of similar age, invite them over.
- Research public libraries and park districts – look into activities offered at the libraries and parks a few towns over from where you live. It’s important to go a few towns over so your child can make new friends and experience a social life outside of school. Encourage your kid to enroll in something for the new year.
- Spend quality time with your child – engage in one-on-one activities you don’t ordinarily have time for during the year. Make special family memories that will not only last a lifetime but will help offset some of your child’s loneliness.
Most importantly, just be there for your son or daughter. Listen to them and let them know how much you love them.
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