Get yourself a friend group

Advice from my son about how to deal with bullying – get yourself a friend group.

Having friends helps you cope when people are mean to you. They can help you validate that what someone said about you – isn’t true. They can also stand up for you when you aren’t able to do so for yourself.

Finally – friends can help give you the courage to stand up when you are ready.

Bystanders have the most power to get bullying to stop. If you see someone being bullied – just walking up to them to stand between them and the bully and to let them know – you support them, can be really powerful – both for the victim and for the bully.

The problem lots of kids have is – they are wonderfully weird. My son has been into opera since he was – 5 years old. When I say someone is weird – I mean – they are interesting and unusual and fabulous. I don’t think of that term – as an insult. It’s a compliment.

Wonderfully weird kids often become targets of bullies. They stand out. An insecure bully might target them to help bring attention to themselves. I myself was targeted this way.

In grade school, because the schools tend to be small, it may be hard for a kid to find friends. And their friends might also be targeted and you might not be put in the same class as your friends. And that problem is exacerbated when the classes don’t take recess at the same time and kids aren’t allowed to sit with their friends at lunch.

My son had friends in grade school, but they didn’t have the tools and ability to support each other well. Grade school teachers – you may want to take these needed relationships into account when you do your scheduling.

Anyway, my son is now in middle school and he has his tribe. He’s had an opera tribe for years. He’s grown up with a group of boys who also like opera and are in a youth opera program together. But at school – he felt like despite having friends, when it came to mean kids – he was on his own.

Middle school has been a completely different experience for him. He has friends and they are organized and if someone treats one of them bad – they all get together and discuss how to handle it. And an entire group of wonderfully weird kids bands together to shut whatever it is down. It helps that in middle school, the kids now have phones and emails to communicate and get support when there is a problem.

The advice I gave to my son when he was little and having trouble on the playground – was to look for the other kids who were alone. And make friends with them. You are never alone. Bullies never have just one kid they target. If you are wonderfully weird – own that and actively look for other wonderfully weird kids and befriend them. You and they will be better for those friendships.