If someone told me four years ago that I should talk to my children about bullying, drugs, alcohol and exit plans in elementary school, I would’ve thought they had hypochondriac issues. As a stay-at-home mom, I was under the societal impression that if I was involved in my children’s lives, provided them with what they needed and lived in a good neighborhood, my children would turn out okay. With parenting classes to help me communicate with them, sending them special notes in their lunches, helping out in their schools and telling them I loved them 160 times a day, I was content in knowing that they would get, have and retain everything they needed to grow and become great human beings. That was my belief…until I opened the communication floodgates with my soon to-be middle school child four years ago. The conversation that took place during one memorable car ride unmasked the truth about what children are truly exposed to. I was stunned, shocked and felt sick to my stomach upon learning how much my children knew and saw, and how much of their innocence had already been tarnished in elementary school. Here I was, a stay-at-home mom who had the time to learn, to be involved and teach. And here, I knew nothing.
I learned immediately that children that young were “huffing,” smoking, bullying and “sexting,” and could be prosecuted as young as 8 years of age. If I’m a parent who has the time and resources to know (and I don’t), what about all the other parents out there? Why don’t we know? As the “mask” unfolded, so did a lot of what I believed. Our children are exposed to so much more than we ever were as kids. Issues today have more edge and substance. Whether it’s bullying or drugs, it is necessary for parents to address these issues and give our children the knowledge and tools to be able to handle them. Our children need us to validate their world and help them navigate through it. “So, Mom, let’s talk about bullies,” my 6-year old daughter says as I tuck her into bed. This is an ongoing dialogue that has been taking place since last summer. Knowing what I do today, I am bound and determined to use “time and talk” as my weapons of defense. I believe bullying, as revealed in this publication, is a substantial underlying issue that can splinter into many. I want my children to know how to recognize it, deflect it and help reduce it. Through these talks with my daughter, I’ve learned that she’s encountered such situations. I recognize the effects my questions are having on her. “How did that make you feel?,” I ask her. As her gaze drifts to the ceiling, the moment reconfirms to me how early these situations allow the self-doubt (“I’m not special enough”) and limitations to our self-consciousness. Bullying affects everyone. We have all experienced situations in our own childhoods that have left scars that have shaped who we are today. Negative comments, exclusion from certain peer groups, whispering behind the back, being teased for not wearing the right clothes, or for being different are all forms of bullying. Being bullied chips away at our self esteem and the earlier it starts, the more likely it will leave lasting damage. As parents, we need to help intercept these issues and empower our children to cope with these life situations. I hope through this information on our website or by subscribing to MASK the Magazine you will be inspired to help prepare your child. Take the time to talk with your child. While it’s never too early to start, it actually can be too late.
CEO/Publisher MASK – MASK the Magazine