Bullying Prevention Month

October is National Bullying Prevention Month. One local parent, husband and former educator is doing his part to encourage everyone to take an active role in the bullying prevention movement.

Mike Sanz of Hilton Head Island recently launched a national anti-bullying program entitled Bullied: Hurt, Healing and Hope. Sanz was teased and bullied during his middle and high school years, which led to eight years of depression and anxiety. Sanz says he continues to struggle with the ramifications on a daily basis. As an educator, he saw what bullying was doing to his students and decided to take a stand.

During the past few years as a ninth-grade teacher at McCracken Middle School he began giving talks to the students about the effects of bullying. This summer he decided to resign from teaching and begin his anti-bullying program.

Sanz says he hopes to educate students, parents and school officials about ways to recognize bullying, which he defines as a repeated action, establishing an imbalance of power that typically involves exclusion or aggressive actions.

The three primary goals of his new program include:

 

  • Sharing his stories about being bullied so he can help kids with strategies to move forward, support faculties with response skills and direct parents toward the signs of bullying;
  • Showing bullies their moments of laughter hurt their victims for life;
  • Providing hope to bullying survivors so they can make thoughtful decisions, which will hopefully lead to fruitful lives.

 

Sanz advises parents to start talking to their children about bullying by the age of 5 or 6.

“The sooner we start to talk to kids about any subject, the better chance they will listen,” he says. “The occurrences of bullying are happening at a younger age.”

Thankfully, at this young age, most children are more willing to share with their parents. Mom or Dad can ask, “How was school today?” and then sit back and listen. Most likely, the parent will get an earful of all the fun and new things their child learned that day. And in those moments, it’s most important for the parent to listen carefully for anything that might seem out of the ordinary, such as “Tommy kept pushing me,” “Suzie wouldn’t stop teasing about my hair” or “I got timeout for being mean to Sam.”

He suggests parents take mental notes of what their child describes so they can be aware if it becomes a pattern.

“You want your children to grow up as good, caring, thoughtful and productive people. Nothing beats solid communication,” Sanz says. “Once they hit middle and high school, it’s harder to get information from them.”

Sanz suggests when the student does reach their teenage years, it’s even more important the parent probe about what’s going on in their child’s life. Kids at this age are reluctant to say much. If parents suspect something is wrong, they can’t give up until they learn what is really going on.

“As a parent, you can’t be satisfied with ‘fine’,” Sanz says.

It’s better to be the “short-term bad guy,” he says because those short-term battles will lead to long-term, good relationships, and the children will thank their parents a thousand times over when they are older. Sanz admits one of his biggest regrets is never telling anyone, including his parents, he was being bullied.

Just as important as getting kids to talk is being able to listen to what the child isn't saying, according to Sanz. Parents should be aware of mood changes or signs of withdrawal, such as changes in sleep patterns, depression, anxiety or wanting to stay home more often. As a parent, Sanz knows when something’s not right. “Has his smile slowly disappeared? Or is there sadness behind his eyes?”

Sanz has advice for all the parents of teenagers reading this.

“Don’t beat yourself up about what you did or didn’t do before now,” he says.

“You have to swallow some pride and get tough. It’s not your job as a parent to be their friend.”

Let your child know you are interested in what’s going on in their life, and you are there to listen and respond when necessary.

But Sanz also advises parents to take it one step further, because bullying isn’t just happening on school grounds anymore. A more aggressive and damaging type of bullying is happening today.

“When I was a kid, bullying stopped when I got off the bus,” Sanz says. “In this day of technology with texting and social media, bullying happens 24/7.”

He tells parents to keep tabs on their children’s communication tools: cellphones, Facebook or Twitter accounts and the websites they visit. He suggests parents have access to all accounts and passwords so they stay informed about what their child is doing or what is being done to them.

One of the most important tips Sanz gives parents is to not let fear keep them from getting involved. Contact someone at the school to learn how everyone can work together to improve the situation.

 

For more information or tips on how to talk to your child about bullying:

Contact Mike Sanz at 843-422-9793 or sanzeducate@aol.com or visit www.mikesanzeducate.com.

 

Tips for kids who think they’re being bullied:

 

  • Ask the bully to stop their actions.
  • Walk away quietly.
  • If it happens again, ask them to stop and tell the bully they will report them to an adult.
  • Do not provoke the bully physically or by speaking loudly. The bully thrives on attention and power.

 

Parent Advocacy Coalition for Educational Rights (PACER)

This group originated National Bullying Prevention Month in 2006. National partners of the month include the National Education Association, the American Federation for Teachers, the National PTA, and many others. Facebook is partnering with PACER by posting information about Unity Day and other PACER activities on its safety, educator, and privacy pages during October.
PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center provides creative and interactive resources that are designed to benefit all students, including students with disabilities. It offers educators, students, families and individuals the tools they need to address bullying. For more information, visit PACER.org/Bullying or call 952-838-9000.

 

UNITY DAY—Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012

Make it orange and make it end! Unite against bullying! 
Sponsored by PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center

What are your true colors when it comes to bullying? If you care about students who are bullied and want bullying to end, make your color ORANGE on Unity Day, Wednesday, Oct. 10. That’s the day everyone can link together—in schools, communities and online—and send one large, ORANGE message of support to students who have experienced bullying.