I turned to my ten year old daughter the other night as we were talking before bedtime. We were discussing camp experiences, and she knows one of my favorite subjects to talk about is my camp days from LONG ago. Lol, “LONG AGO.” Day camp, sleep away camp. All of it. The fond memories of all the activities, friends, counselors, songs, first kiss, etc. But then, she looked at me seriously and asked “mom, were you ever bullied in camp?” Odd question I thought to ask at that moment, when clearly, I hadn’t even brought up anything negative. I asked her why she was suddenly asking a question like that? She said “because you’re older now, and if you were bullied as a little girl, you probably don’t even remember it now anyway.” As the conversation got deeper, I understood what she referring to. She remembered her own experience at summer camp back in first grade (five years ago), when a friend made her cry so bad because her friend threw her unfinished lunch in the trash for no reason at all. Her friend just thought it was funny. Not. I thought, how sad it was to have that awful memory, considering how amazing her camp experiences were over the years as a little girl. It was at that very moment in speaking with my daughter that I realized how just one negative experience could be a trauma trigger in an instant flashback.
Ironically, I was just reading an article the other day that said “the long term effects of being bullied by other children are worse than being abused by an adult.” Seems crazy, I know. Never in my right mind would I think that anything could be worse for a child other than having a traumatic experience such as child abuse. However, in these long term findings I was reading about, with over 5,000 American and British children who participated in two different studies, 70% of the British children were more likely to experience depression over being bullied versus being abused, and American children who were bullied were five times more likely to have anxiety issues than those children who suffered child abuse. This blew my mind!
My point is, that although bullying has been a prevalent problem for decades, no parent wants his/her child to suffer from acts of bullying as the perpetrator takes pleasure in hurting others. Our children go to school to learn, they go to camp to have fun, and certainly not to be humiliated or put down by others. There are no excuses for someone to harass another human being. Social media has only made it worse. With the rise in internet use, it’s easier to become a victim and target. Bottom line is, there are long term effects of being bullied. It’s how those who experience any form of bullying either overcome certain situations and build resiliency or develop serious problems like depression, anxiety, and lack confidence and self-worth.
There are many parents who say to their kids “just brush it off, walk away, or tough it out if anyone bullies you.” As much as I love Kelly Clarkson’s song, “What Doesn’t Kill Us Makes Us Stronger”, it’s simply not the case when it comes to being bullied. One time is too many for being bullied and the memories can trigger at any moment, at any given time, no matter how many years later. So I said “goodnight” to my younger daughter and left her with this…”I’m so happy you are the person you’ve become, no matter what anyone says to you, now or ever.”