Tuesday’s Bullying 2.0: From Identification to Intervention presentation, sponsored by KidsPeace and PPL, had a clear message: stand up to bullies.
“We have to have our own power. We have to own the situation,” Dr. Julius Licata, Ph.D., said. Parents should handle bullying proactively, rather than hoping it will resolve itself.
According to Licata, co-founder and director of TeenCentral.net, a counseling site for teens, repeated harassment can lead to suicide because the victim feels hopeless and alone. To counteract any feelings of helplessness, Licata urged parents to show their support by talking to their children about bullying.
“We have to be the advocate. We have to be the people that are helping them.”
Parents should begin by instructing their kids to report any instance of bullying. From there, the parent can alert the principal, superintendent, police or a local representative.
“Get everybody involved that you have to get involved,” he said. “Bullying will be stopped when you demand that it be stopped. You can’t do that alone.”
This is something Shari Foose did for her child, Lauren Foose, though she admitted it was not easy. She said that in trying to raise bullying awareness, she became a loud-mouthed parent everyone avoided.
Her daughter Lauren Foose, a former child actress and dancer, suffered such brutal bullying for her success that she changed schools several times and experienced dramatic weight gain, depression and anxiety. Wanting to release the anger she felt toward those who bullied her, she became a bully herself.
“If my ‘friends’ treated me that way and it was socially accepted, how was I supposed to know any better?” she said, referring to her teachers’ refusal to punish aggressors. “Our system is corrupt.”
But instead of becoming despondent when she was told she would have been expelled had she defended herself from a recent physical attack or when she received a suspension for defending another student, she uses her experiences to educate others.
“You have to have kids inspire other kids. And that’s something I’ll dedicate my entire life to if I have to,” Foose said.
She also talks so she can help spread the same message Licata emphasized, which is that parents have to be there for their kids.
“You, as our elders, need to guide us to that point of readiness and understanding.”