Bullying is not a rite of passage.

My son was about six years old when he came to me and told me that some kids at school were being mean to him. At first it wasn’t the obvious forms of bullying: he would come home in tears that a child wouldn’t play with him or that another one had called him names. Me, always trying to be the pragmatic one, would say “I am sure he didn’t mean it” or “maybe today he didn’t want to play with you, and that’s ok, maybe tomorrow he will. Tomorrow is another day”. My son would be happy with that explanation and go back to school day after day with renewed enthusiasm and hope. The problem was, over the next few months, not only did the children not want to play with him, but they would try and intervene whenever my son tried to form new friendships. So, it was not long before my son was left with no-one to play with. At pick up time, I would always be met with a teary-eyed face telling me he had no-one to play with and that the children were being mean to him.  Every day, I would tell him the same thing “tomorrow is a new day” and yet over time my own positivity started to wane. 

The next few months and years were a heavy burden for us to carry. My son endured name calling, cruelty, violence and extreme loneliness. He was no longer the same child, his enthusiasm for everything he loved had disappeared, taking him to school was a mission and he could no longer see any way out of this, except one, that I find too distressing to even put to words. 

Over the years, I had picked him up and encouraged him, I had stuck up for him and I had told him the same story of him having an inner superhero. This superhero was his positive inner voice and I taught him that he should use this inner spirit to drive him on. Unfortunately, my son’s inner superhero had been drowned out by all the negative voices and experiences he had endured. It was time to make him the main protagonist in my sons’ life and so I set about writing him a book that I hoped would empower him. 

In a few short weeks, I had written Big Little Voice Colours the Grey.  This book was a visual reminder of everything I had always told him, something he could read and re-read whenever he felt he needed encouragement. This book was never supposed to be for anyone else, but then the healthcare professionals I was in touch with encouraged me to get it published as they believed it could greatly help other children in the same position. Big Little Voice is now in publication and will be released in November of this year.  

I hope people will realise there is not “one type fits all” when it comes to bullying. I believe we should never disregard what someone considers as bullying and we should not impose our opinion of whether we think something is serious enough to be classed as bullying. No child who is already suffering should be told to “toughen up as this is just a rite of passage”, or in other words that this is a normal part of childhood. It is not normal; it is not part of childhood and no child should suffer like this. Children are affected differently by different things, so it’s not fair to generalise. One child could suffer years of torment and abuse in silence, carrying on as normal, seemingly unaffected and yet another child could hear a cruel comment and take their own life.  

If you notice changes in a child or you suspect your child or someone you know is being bullied, show compassion, and start a conversation with them. We must remember, it takes a lot of courage for a child to admit what is happening, so please never dismiss it as normal or belittle their words, if they share something with you. A childhood is precious and short and children should enjoy it. Their tomorrow should be full of hope and happiness and not a terrifying day they hope never arrives. 

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