October is Bullying Prevention Awareness Month

Amidst all the pumpkin carving and the costume making and the candy collecting, it's important to remember that not every child is looking forward to celebrating Halloween -- or any kind of holiday -- with his or her friends.  Some children live their lives in misery because they are bullied at school, bullied at the playground, bullied over the web.  It's a serious issue with serious consequences for both the bullies and the bullied.   

October is Bullying Prevention Awareness Month, and many organizations, from the National Child Traumatic Stress Network to StopBullying.gov to Stomp Out Bullying, to It Gets Better, are providing resources to identify, combat and prevent bullying.  Their websites are great resources for parents and educators and young adults.  

However, I firmly believe there is no substitute for parents talking with their kids, especially younger kids and school-aged kids, and having a frank discussion about bullying -- why it's not okay, putting themselves in other kids' shoes, how they can protect themselves, what they can do if they see it happen.  I don't mean gathering them into the living room for a formal lecture!  Bullying awareness is a subject that can be woven into everyday conversations.  Here are some suggestions:

1) Ask your child how his school day went -- who he played with, what games they played, whether he had fun, etc..

2) Comment on a news story about bullying, or even terrorist activities.

3) Apologize to your child if you lose your temper and yell at him (because using your physical size or your power as a parent to intimidate your child is a lot like bullying!). 

4) Read your child a story about bullying -- GoodReads has a great list of anti-bullying books.  If your child is in middle school, try a book from the Macmillan Editor's anti-bullying list for junior high and up. 

5) There are many anti-bullying documentaries to watch, including Ellen Degeneres' Bully and 10-year old Gerry Orz's Day of Silence, but your child may not be ready for such stark ideas.  Fortunately, Sesame Street has an anti-bullying page with videos featuring Big Bird and other friends, dealing with bullying in a far gentler, but no less serious way.  

6) Encourage your child to try out some of the anti-bullying games and activities available on the web.  PBS Kids has a great bullying website that talks to kids about bullies in language they can understand, and tests their knowledge with the their Beat the Bully.  For school-aged kids, there's Awesome Upstander!, an app for the iPhone, iPad and Android devices that entertains kids which teaching them some important lessons about bullying and empowering them to take action among themselves.  What's more, 50% of proceeds from the sale of the app in October will benefit organizations like Truth Locker. I've received a copy of Awesome Upstander! for my iPad, so stay tuned for a review of the app!

Disclosure:  Awesome Upstander is reimbursing me for my purchase of the Awesome Upstander iPad app.  The views and opinions expressed here are my own.

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