If your child is being bullied, you know it’s not always easy to get them to open up and share their feelings. I remember, very well, just how tricky it could be.That’s why I created activities like , and How I See Myself Now (from I’ve Got Plans: A kid’s activity book for a fun-filled future).
All of these exercises are designed to help children express even the most difficult emotions, like anxiety, embarrassment, sadness or anger.
I’ll never forget one day in particular when my daughter was getting frustrated with me because she couldn’t communicate exactly what she was feeling.
“You don’t get it, Mom,” she’d say in a whiney tone.
I smiled and handed her a copy of I’ve Got Feelings: An activity book for grinning, grimacing and shouting out loud!, along with a pencil and some crayons. But, to be honest, I couldn’t imagine learning anything I didn’t already know—after all, I wrote the book!
She rolled her eyes, as 9-year-olds occasionally do, but soon began reading. She continued, filling in the pages with words and pictures that would later give me surprising insight. When she was finished, she handed me the book, with a kind of “take a look at this!” attitude.
I flipped though it, and her story unfolded. The words revealed some sadness and a little frustration, but the pictures said it all. Children, who towered over her tiny frame, surrounded her. It was about her height, but also about feeling intimidated and a little insignificant.
This wasn’t really new information, but she’d done a good job of expressing just how relevant the issue was in her day. It gave me the opportunity to share some stories of my own—ones from my childhood—growing up vertically challenged. I made sure to be very honest about how frustrated it made me, but I used some humor, too. And soon she began to look at me a little differently.
“Maybe you do understand a little,” she said.
If she only knew how much!
We went on to list all of the successful, happy role models under 5 feet 6 inches and she lightened up a bit. And once her frustration subsided, we were able to have a more serious conversation about how to handle certain forms of bullying, and whom she could turn to at school if she felt bullied or saw someone else who was a victim.
Another good exercise parents can use is one I call “Mapping It Out.”
By creating a map of the school, including hallways, cafeteria, classroom, locker area and playground, they can simply circle the areas where bullying takes place, providing important information without “tattling.” That way, educators may find it easier to address the issue.
Children don’t always want to name names, but they’re willing to provide us with the information we need to reduce bullying. We just need to create an easy and safe way for them to do so.
Taryn Grimes-Herbert is the author of the I’ve Got character-building book series for children, and was 2010’s Woman of Achievement in the Arts Honoree for Orange County, NY. Calling upon her professional acting experience on Broadway, film and television, she speaks out and takes her books into classrooms hoping to help kids build character, develop empathy and learn to create a positive future through creative dramatics activities.