Last January, your family PCS’d for the fourth time in seven years. It’s the fifth school district your seventh grade daughter has attended. It’s the sixth for your son, who’s in the middle of his freshman year in high school. Your spouse is working up for the fifth deployment in a decade. Might as well not be here anyway, right?
That, in short, is what military families have come to expect.
But something is different about this move. Your son came home a week ago with a split lip and bruises. When you asked what happened, he said, “Nothing … I fell down some stairs.”
Your normally happy-go-lucky daughter has been acting depressed and has started to complain about chronic headaches and an upset stomach. You know something is wrong.
If the first thought that came to mind was that your children were being bullied, you’re probably right. Bullying continues to be prevalent in our schools and in many social situations. As we explore the subject of mental health in this month’s magazine, we need to take a fresh look at bullying and remember that it impacts our military families every day.
Who do bullies pick on?
According to stopbullying.gov, the following groups are especially susceptible to being bullied:
– Kids perceived as different from peers, such those who are overweight or underweight, wear glasses or different clothing, are new to a school or can’t afford what kids consider “cool.”
– Kids perceived as weak or unable to defend themselves.
– Kids who are depressed, anxious, or have low self-esteem.
– Kids who are less popular than others and have few friends.
– Kids who don’t get along well with others, are seen as annoying, provoking or antagonizing others for attention. Kids with disabilities or those who happen to be LBGT are at a significantly higher risk of being bullied.
I strongly suspect many of us can see our childhood selves in one of these categories. I’m also sure you can immediately recognize that many military kids might easily fit into one or more of these categories.
“If we are to face some of these long roads ahead, we have to bring our a-game mentally, and bullying simply shouldn’t be tolerated.”
And remember: Kids aren’t the only ones who are bullied. Among adults, 35 percent have reported being bullied at their workplace. Bullying can occur within the squadron, the battalion. It occurs in FRG’s and other military spouse groups.
All of this is happening in this sad new world of cyber-bullying. Talking to another military spouse, she mentioned that she recently had to file a complaint against an 11-year-old who had created a YouTube video saying awful things about her daughter. An 11-year-old!
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
Bullying isn’t new. But our society is beginning to understand that we can no longer ignore it. And we know that it has absolutely no place in our military. But what are you doing about it? Don’t be silent.
• Stand up for your child and other children in your community, even if your school system doesn’t necessarily follow suit.
• Stand up for your fellow military spouse, even if the chain of command doesn’t.
• And stand up for yourself. In the last 11 months, I am amazed again and again at the tenacity, strength and kindness inherent in military spouses. So take it from me. You are worth it.
It’s a difficult time: Budgets are being cut to the quick. Suicides continue to occur at an alarming rate. Divorce and unemployment continue to exhaust an already stretched support system. If we are to face some of these long roads ahead, we have to bring our A-game mentally, and bullying simply shouldn’t be tolerated.