by Tianna G. Hansen
Bullying is a very real problem for students and youth growing up. It’s nothing new, but it has more severe consequences today, as it doesn’t end once a child is home from school.
Cyberbullying is a new form this behavior has taken, often giving kids the courage to say things they may not in a face-to-face conversation.
There are many forms of bullying, but the basic problem with any bullying is the isolation that occurs in targets.
The Peace Center in Langhorne is working with preventative measures and resources to offer a place for students and parents to come and speak openly in a safe space about bullying, its effects, and what can be done to improve the situation.
These groups are called Bullying Prevention Support Circles and they are offered for students who are being bullied and their families as a way to begin the conversation around bullying.
Everyone is welcome here, no matter how old or what grade of school they are in.
“Bullying takes a major strain and creates a stressful situation for kids and family,” said Bullying Prevention Coordinator Kathia Monard-Weissman. “We aim to build self-esteem and confidence in kids being bullied by offering this group.”
In a group setting, they discuss what bullying is and address it as an imbalance of power when someone else wants to gain power by making another person feel powerless.
Bullying often affects academic performance of students and can lead to victims feeling excluded or no longer wishing to return to school.
“We want to start teaching them the skills now while they are young, to speak up, not to respond in a violent way when they are angry. There are things you can control and things you can’t,” says Kathia. “Through the Support Circles, they begin to feel they are no longer powerless, they can gain their power back and have options. They are not alone.”
Bullying can happen at any age – it happens to those who are seen as vulnerable or different in some way, be it gender, religion, ability, etc. and these differences become a target.
The Support Circles also focus on appreciating differences in each other, how to support and build self-esteem and use affirmations to minimize negative messages you’re getting and how to control your feelings.
One thing that is stressed here is the ability to report and speak up about the behavior.
“It’s not ‘tattletaling’,” says Kathia. “We ask the kids to name five people they can talk to if something happens – either at school or home, be it a friend, teacher, guidance counselor, parents or grandparents.”
The main goal and focus of the Support Circles is for students and those who are being bullied to feel valued, heard and connected.
“Often they are lacking that sense of belonging and we try to provide that opportunity, to nurture their sense of worth and belonging.”
Support Circles meet twice a month at the Peace Center during the school year and are a support group with hopes of expansion.
“If we are able to get a number of students who are interested in another area, we would open another Circle in other parts of the county,” says Kathia. “We want to grow.”
There is a stigma around bullying that the target is weak.
“You are not weak. We want to change that stigma.”
Parents and educators can do their part by helping students and children learn the skills to help them cope in any situation and to focus on creating a safe space where kids can express and talk about emotions as well as how to manage these emotions and how to stand up and speak up in a respectful, peaceful way.
Violence and anger are never the answer in response to bullying; these will only heighten a situation and can make it worse.
The Peace Center has a large Bullying Prevention program intact to help students.
They also offer programs for kids in elementary school such as ‘respecting me, respecting you’ and ‘celebrating me, celebrating you.’
These programs teach emotional intelligence (how to express emotions, deal with anger or stand up against bullying), and how to embrace diversity in the classroom, school, family and communities.
Students of all ages need support and help through bullying and they shouldn’t wait until they are in crisis mode to address a problem.
To register for the Support Circles, call 215-750-7220 ext. 13 and ask for Kathia or Kate or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Advance registration is required to attend.
This program is facilitated by The Peace Center’s Bullying Prevention Resource Center, a program funded by the County Commissioners, the District Attorney’s office, and Bucks County Superintendents.
Find more online at www.thepeacecenter.org.
Come visit the Peace Center for their Storytelling “tour” to learn more about all the resources offered and how they can help families and offer support.