Another rough night. More bad attitude. I had had it with the behavior.

“What is going on with you lately,” I said.

Cameron looked up at me, devastated, and said, “I’m being bullied, mom.”

My heart broke into a thousand tiny pieces.

“How long as this been going on,” I asked.

“Since school began,” he replied.

I just sat there and held my baby.

Cameron has always been small, sweet smart, and this makes him an easy target for bullies. We had had minor incidents in the past, but they were easily contained and monitored by diligent classroom teachers.

We had high hopes for him as he entered middle school — finding like-minded peers in his honors classes, band and other extracurricular activities. Even more exciting was the school’s adopted theme for the year, “Be Kind.”

But none of this was enough to protect him, shield him and prevent this.

So what do I do? What can I do?

I struggle to find that balance.  I want Cameron to be able to be his most authentic self, to be happy with who he is — because who he is is enough. I don’t want to ask him to change the things I love most about him — his compassion, his wonder or his brilliance; those things that make him uniquely him. But I also want him to be strong enough and sure enough to stand up for himself.

And I don’t want to write bullying off as typical behavior or some rite-of-passage that we must all go through, or make a blanket statement that middle school just sucks.

I see these beautiful babies on the news dying too young because they were bullied. I look at them and I see Cameron in them. My heart breaks.

But there are things we can do. Together.

Please, please, please teach your children to be kind. Teach them to be civil. Teach them to respect peoples differences. Teach them to stand up for one another. Show them by example.

Be an advocate for your child and other children. An adult was notified in less than half (40 percent) of bullying incidents, according to statistics from 2012. Kids don’t tell adults for many reasons.

Ask for increased adult presence in the halls at your child’s school. Today it may not be your child, but you never know when it might be.

But maybe, most importantly, talk to your kids every day. Look for changes in your child. However, please note that not all children who are bullied exhibit warning signs.

Some signs that may point to a bullying problem include:

• Unexplained injuries.

• Lost or destroyed clothing, books, electronics or jewelry.

• Frequent headaches or stomach aches, feeling sick or faking illness.

• Changes in eating habits, like suddenly skipping meals or binge eating. Kids may come home from school hungry because they did not eat lunch.

• Difficulty sleeping or frequent nightmares.

• Declining grades, loss of interest in schoolwork or not wanting to go to school.

• Sudden loss of friends or avoidance of social situations.

• Feelings of helplessness or decreased self-esteem.

• Self-destructive behaviors such as running away from home, harming themselves or talking about suicide. 

If you know someone in serious distress or danger, don’t ignore the problem. For more resources regarding bullying, click here.

***

Shea Saladee lives in Papillion with her husband, Brent, and their three children. She works as an instructor at the University of Nebraska Omaha.

Commenting is limited to Omaha World-Herald subscribers. To sign up, click here.

If you're already a subscriber and need to activate your access or log in, click here.

Load comments

You must be a full digital subscriber to read this article You must be a digital subscriber to view this article.