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Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Once Upon a Time

Photo by: Ambro

Once upon a time,* there was a sensitive little boy. When people called him ugly names, he cried. This caused more name calling, since his peers found it entertaining.

Once upon a time, there was a child who had a deep sense of injustice. He always felt sorry for people with problems. He would literally fight for those he felt were oppressed. He got in a lot of trouble at school.

Once upon a time, there was a little girl who was afraid of almost everyone. She felt ugly and insecure. She was tall and ahead of her peers in physical development but behind them in age. A girl in school called her nasty names and made fun of her. The young lady wore glasses, had oily skin, and she felt very strange in the world.

Once upon a time, there was a child who was smaller than the other children in his class. He needed attention, so he acted like a clown. He often had his classmates and even the teachers in stitches. He was the life of the party. He actually liked his new role as the funny person. It made up for his lack of stature.

Once upon a time, there was a girl who was different from the other girls. She wore clothes that looked like they might have belonged to someone ten years ago. She didn’t seem to have a style. Her classmates began to mock her because of her clothing. She didn’t let them see, but she cried every day as she went home. This girl lived with her grandparents. She knew she couldn’t ask for more from them, so she suffered every day in silence.

Once upon a time, there was a boy who couldn’t walk. He used a wheelchair. Some of the children at school thought the chair was cool, and they would hitch a ride with him, by almost sitting in his lap. Others shunned him. They didn’t know how to treat him, since he couldn’t do what they could do. He couldn’t play sports or run or jump, so they acted like he wasn’t there.

Once upon a time, there was a beautiful preteen. Someone started texting her. He said his name was Alex and he thought she was pretty. He asked her lots of questions and made her feel important. She enjoyed the male attention. “Alex” said he wanted to see more of her—literally—and he asked her to text him pictures with less and less clothing. He asked her to do things she thought were weird. When she protested, he laughed and told her she was beautiful.

Once upon a time, there was a bully. He was bigger and stronger than the other boys his age, so he attracted a following. Those boys stroked his ego, and he exploited them. They all picked on kids who weren’t nearly as street savvy as they were. They belittled them in a variety of ways. They were especially hard on smart kids. Who did they think they were, anyway, getting A’s?

Once upon a time, there was you.

Did you see yourself in any of these stories? Did your heart go out to those who were picked on or misunderstood? Did you identify with the vulnerable or with the bullies?

I believe we’ve all been there, and our children are there.

How can we help our children? 
  1. Be aware of what’s happening at school. Ask about your child’s day. Ask him about his friends. Be interested. If something bad is happening, it will usually come out, if you have an open, caring relationship with your child.
  2. If your child has any issue (any meaning being small, having a handicap, being sensitive, maturing early, etc.), help him deal with his specific issue. Help him understand that a person is not less because he has a challenge. Point out someone with the same challenge who is doing well. Find role models for your child.
  3. Educate yourself and your kids. Make sure you understand bullying, trolling, and sexting. Then, talk openly and candidly with your children about those things. It will help them to be more aware and also let you know if they notice any of these things. Warn them against carrying on any kind of conversation with people they—and you—don’t personally know (chat, phone, social media).
  4. Be there for your child in a non-condemning way. Sometimes, because we want to “fix” everything, we step on sensitive children’s feelings. It is better to listen than to fix. Give the child undivided attention while you and he talk.
  5. Encourage. Help your child deal with the disappointments of life with a “yes you can” mentality. Help him learn to depend on the Lord for his strength. Behold, God is mighty, and despiseth not any: he is mighty in strength and wisdom (Job 36:5).
  6. Be an example—a transparent example. When children see their parents deal with their own problems and challenges in a godly and strong way, they learn from you. Let your children know about some of your struggles, and let them see how you handle them with prayer and the right stance. Children learn more from watching than from talk.

May God bless you.

*All stories are made-up but are typical scenarios young people face every day.

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