For some it is a great sense of relief to get back to school after the long summer holidays of missing friends and routine. For others it is a sense of dread, angst and trepidation, knowing they are going back to face the bullies. So what can be done to ensure that our children are safe when they leave home to go to school?
I remember when I was young thinking that the school summer holidays were way too long. I went to school in the UK until I was 14 and we had 6 weeks off in the summer. SIX weeks, wow that was such a long time. I loved school and I missed my friends and classmates over the holiday period. I couldn’t wait to go back to the ritual of the routine, and slot back in again to student life. It was a happy time. That was until I moved school because we moved to another country. I was made to feel unwelcome almost immediately, mainly by a particular teacher. I was different you see. I spoke with a different accent, an English one, a very unwelcome one, back in the ’70’s in rural Ireland. Even though my parents and grandparents and entire set of ancestors were Irish, I was an outcast from the offset.
I had a hard time a lot of the time. It was bad enough trying to readjust to my new surroundings, my new home, a new country, away from my friends and all that was familiar to me without the added dread of going to school to be ridiculed, ignored, picked on and verbally insulted. It was outright bullying. It gave me feelings that I didn’t care to have. It made me feel sad, bad, ostracised, unwelcome, angry. I went from loving school to dreading school. I went from thinking six weeks summer holidays was way too long to 3 months in Ireland being not nearly enough. Looking back, the only thing I am thankful for is that back then, when I got home, I was safe. Home was my sanctuary. Home was where I did not have to worry, I did not have to be on high alert, I would not be tormented there.
These days it is a different story for kids going back to school. This is the technocological age of progress and ‘all things can be done in an instant’. The sad thing is, that goes for bullying too, and there is no escape, there is no sanctuary of home anymore. Why, because these days most of the school age population (secondary school) have mobile phones, have some form of social media, whether it is snap chat, facebook, instagram and some other things I haven’t even a clue what they are! The bullying does not necessarily stop at the school gate, or the school bus stop. It follows you home. It doesn’t stop. It can be constant. It is exhausting. It is often SILENT. It is ALWAYS dangerous. It gets into the mind and can be so destructive that some victims cannot cope. They may appear to be ‘functioning’ on the outside, but what is going on, inside, inside their heads. Do they have regular tummy ache? are they distracted, quiet, forgetful, preoccupied, depressed, hiding in their room with their phone. Are they asking for more money? are they irritable, aggressive, weepy, off their food, having sleeping problems. Do they have unexplained bruises and pass it off as, ‘it happened in P.E’. Are some of their belongings missing, pens, bag, purse, books etc. Are they making excuses for skipping school, lessons, homework.
All to often the problem is that bullying has not gone away. Despite everywhere having an anti bullying policy. Despite the fact that there is more awareness and education about bullying in the education system, it is still very prevalent today. So what can be done if your child is being bullied or if you suspect your child is being bullied? Talk. Talk to them, talk to the school and if possible, talk to the person doing the bullying in a safe environment. Often a bully has issues of their own, that they are finding difficult to deal with and so take it out on someone else – a ‘kick the cat’, sort of response and misplace their anger and frustration onto someone weaker, more vulnerable, an easy target is the perfect option.
Monitor your child’s use on their phone. Have strict rules around the phone and do not let it go into the bedroom with them. Talk to them about keeping them safe and protected. They are young and have young and immature and very impressionable minds. You are their parent, you DO KNOW best. If they need a phone to contact you, consider buying a handset that is NOT a smartphone. Let home become their sanctuary. Let home be their safe place. Work on strategies that your child can use to help them protect themselves, to help them stand up for themselves and ultimately stand up to their bully. A bully will soon tire, if they are not getting anywhere with a someone they perceive to be weak, and leave them alone.
Out of all of the children I have had and looked after 2 were bullied at school and after school waiting for their bus. Two children separated by 12 years in age, but both were 16 at the time of their bullying and assaults. At the time of the first one, there was no such thing as social media, so she would come home and tell us what was happening and we dealt with it the best way we could and it was soon nipped in the bud. Home was her safe place. The second child that was bullied did have a phone at the time, but it was not a smart phone, so there was no social media bullying for her either. We chatted about what happened. We spoke about strategies and ways in dealing and coping with the bullying and how to build up my child’s strength and resilience. Not only to challenge herself but also to challenge her bully. To stand up to her bully, no matter how scared she felt, and let the bully know, in no uncertain terms, that the bullying behaviour was not acceptable and that there would be serious repercussions if it continued. We were lucky, in that it worked and the bullying stopped and my child’s confidence, resilience and resolve grew stronger.
There are however, cases of bullying which have dire circumstances and ultimately very tragic ones. I particularly remember the case of Phoebe Prince, the Irish girl who moved to America and was bullied so much she took her own life. The only positive to come out of that tragic case is that the people who bullied her were held accountable and were charged and convicted of harassment and civil rights violations. Stricter bullying laws were introduced also as a result. Many more children, home and abroad, are victims of bullying and have also attempted or committed suicide. Isn’t it time, we took stock, isn’t it time we did something more, especially as far as social media is concerned, to keep our children protected and safe. They may look fine on the outside. You may think they are just sullen, cranky teenagers, but maybe, there is something more going on.
It is very frustrating for parents who know something is going on but feel that they or their child is not being listened to or heard. We have a crumbling and almost broken mental health service. People are being left crippled with fear and anxiety over what can they do next. They say it takes a whole village to raise a child, so we need to come together, as a community to help and support each other. To help and support our vulnerable children. To talk and keep talking to our children. To reassure them, to empower them, to help them, even if it is they who are doing the bullying, understand why, get to the bottom of it. Lets stop treating the symptoms of bullying, lets try to get to the root of it and eradicate it ….. for everyone’s sake.
I enjoyed a very quick visit to Tangier. What can I say? It was hot. There were red flags everywhere celebrating the kings birthday. There were camels, stalls and walking street traders. At our first pit stop it was 12 euro for a bracelet…. 25.00 for a wooden guitar. The aromatic smells of the spices filled the air. There were sheep in the alleyways by the shops. The men were busy trying to coax a sale. Some women were selling their goods and some in burka’ s were buying theirs. The little narrow streets were busy. The doorways faced with beautiful mosaic tiles. Mosaic was everywhere. It looked beautiful but poor. People smiled but looked sad. We were followed closely by traders desperately trying to pedal their wares. By the time we were leaving the 12 euro bracelet could be bought for a euro. The 25.00 euro guitar could also be bought for a euro.
We were taken for lunch as part of the tour. Traditional food in a typical traditional restaurant with authentic musicians playing. Food was delicious.
Would I go back ? Yes but I’d like to spend a bit longer so browse more in the souks…
Children’s laughter makes me smile, the sound of high pitched happy screams bounce off my ear drums. Igniting a quick beat of pleasure in my pulsating weary heart. It brings me back. It makes me remember , to a time I never want to forget, but at the same time lost in an amnesiac trance, barely aware that I was ever there.
Lost between 2 worlds. Existing for the sake of it, the perverse irony of my being. How I should come to love when born from something far more depraved. How I could sense distain, with your wayward glance. Your tender less touch and your prickly tongue.
Yet I am locked in, with no where and nothing to run to. But I have everything I ever wanted burried deeply in my mind. You cannot touch that. You cannot take that. It is not yours to take. You will not succeed….
Happy smiles. Warming soft breaths nuzzled in my neck. Softly , calmly yet frantically seeking out your nourishment. A satisfied sigh, a relaxed and trusting grip as you find your source.
The bond so strong, the love unyielding yet I must betray you. I do not have a choice. They will take you. You are to be their trophy, their prize. Their decency in their evil trade.
Their cloth is the cloak of the devil himself. Ever etched and engraved in my heart, in my mind, under my skin. My flesh is your flesh. My blood is your blood. My love is everlasting. You are my life and I live in hope eternal, that well meet again.
Children in the street playing, skipping, crying, laughing. I ache for you. My every waking minute is consumed, thoughts of you.
My belief, my wish, my dream, my love, my life, my innocence, my shame, my heartbreak, my loss, my light, my dark, my smile, my anger my utter devastation. I could not, was allowed not, to keep you.
Their skirts swishing off the parquet floor. Their chain-like beads dangle like the hangmans noose. Their footsteps quicken, grow louder. They’re on their way.
I wake again and again over and over. I’ll never forget. I search among the faces. I curse their command. Cold as the statue they adore. Hearts made of stone.
Suffer little children for they have spoken…. suffer little children, so many hearts broken.
If you had a wish what would it be
‘to see her face’, you said to me
I eyed you closely in the mirror
My heart aching, your love I consider
But a boy, just 7 years old
Passed around from pillar to post
A wand I wish I had to hand
Create a magic,make true your command
The smell of leather, the engine hums
We drive, I watch, as you think of mum
In your heart she never leaves
It’s filled with love and hopeful dreams
That one day you can be back together
Someday soon, not the 12th of never
A smile you wear upon your face
You’re eyes conceal what you have to face
To stay with strangers, no blood no bond
You must conform, react, respond
A little bed in a large room
‘can I go home, can I go soon?
A familiar smell reminds you of her
You can’t go yet, we have to defer
It’s for the best, you must understand
No way, not now, can you live with your mam
Its not your fault, you did nothing wrong
I know it’s not easy, you feel you belong
Not here with us, though we keep you safe
But there in the chaos, that familiar place
One day we hope things will be better
We don’t expect that you should forget her
But keep her there in that heart of yours
And we’ll pray together that it won’t be so raw
The hurt, the pain, the sense of loss
Yes you are safe, but what is the cost
Scared in your mind and out of your wits
We’ll help you get through it, bit by bit
One day I hope that we’ll get you back home
But until that day, together well roam
It’s all ok, cry if you must
One day you’ll know,in us you can trust
It must be hard, I cannot conceive
A separated child, who can he believe
No-one can tell him, how to feel in his heart
It’s broken, it’s damaged, it’s falling apart
But soften the blow, we’ll try our best
To help you along and aide in your quest
Believe me though, I know it’s true
Your mam also loves and misses you
It’s not her fault, she just couldn’t cope
It was just too much, out of her scope
She’ll get some help and learn the skills
And slowly learn a new life to build
And one day soon you’ll be together
no Not today, not the 12th of never……
So it begins, the cheers, the anticipation, the trepidation, the wanting and wanton. The two sides. Your side, my side, anything but that side.
Neighbours, friends, enemies, nay sayers, people, sheeple, men, women and children. Hoping and praying, some that it will, others that it wont ‘come home’.
‘We wont hear the last of it’ some say. ‘I’d just like to see the other side have a chance’. ‘Their media always big them up, it just gets on my nerves’. ‘Anyone but England, I couldn’t bear it if they won’. Just a few of the comments I hear constantly at this crucial stage of the world cup, from this island of Ireland.
I hear from liverpool supporters, man u supporters, Chelsea, Everton and Man City. What a pity, I think. A pity that there is still such a (not so friendly) divide when it comes to the England team.
What ever the reason, whatever the excuse, I cannot but feel sorry, for you. Sorry that your history is still your present. Sorry that your influence has probably been drilled into you from school, parents, grand parents, perhaps.
Maybe your real self wants to cheer for your neighbour, your current neighbour, not your historical neighbour. The one where your Irish football players go join your neighbours’ football teams so they can fulfil their dreams of being a professional footballer.
Maybe one day your sons will want to play too. What conflict will they feel in order to please their parent whilst denying their dream.
Who is the ‘baddie’ now. Dont we enjoy trade, dont we enjoy English T.V ? Gone are the days of just 2 channels (thankfully). Dont we enjoy tourism to boost our economy from so many of them damn English!
If a child does something wrong and the adult over steps the mark in their punishment, who is wrong? The adult screams and shouts and condems the child and holds a grudge until it seeps into his very bones with anger, and so he lashes out. Is it still the child’s ‘fault’ for being naughty in the first place?
A horrendous past, a horrendous history can only heal with forgiveness. Forgivness of others and of ourselves.
I hate to see hatred, for all it does is create hatefulness. And hatefulness creeps and seeps,and in the end destroys. It destroys relationships, it destroys friendships it destroys joy.
What joy it would be if we could celebrate if England won tonight and our neighbours could rejoice in that fact.
Someone said on the radio today that the Irish dont need a reason to celebrate anything. Ive seen that, they can for the most part be fun, have the craic, celebrate wins and even losses.
That is why as a girl born in England to 100 % Irish parents, grandparents and generational Irish heritage, I feel sorry for those of you, who cannot or will not or feel they should not celebrate if England ‘bring it home’, especially those that support English clubs.
Of course its your right, your privilege and your choice as it is mine to choose to not be defined by past history.