Across the globe we see differences to what we know as the norm. Even at home we see different colored skin, different languages being spoken, food eaten and traditions being celebrated. When you have made travel a priority in your life, these differences can become part of your normal life, and something you crave, but when you aren’t used to changes, something being different or someone being different from you, you may react in a way that can harm not only others, but yourself as well.
Bullying in our schools seems to be a part of life for many children in America and across the globe. According to the U.S. government, bullying requires two things: an imbalance of power and repetition.
- An Imbalance of Power: Kids who bully use their power—such as physical strength, access to embarrassing information, or popularity—to control or harm others. Power imbalances can change over time and in different situations, even if they involve the same people.
- Repetition: Bullying behaviors happen more than once or have the potential to happen more than once. Source: StopBullying.gov
A 2013 Schools Crime Supplement created by the National Center for Education Statistics and Bureau of Justice Statistics reported that about 22% of students ages 12-18 had experienced bullying. That’s 22 out of 100 children who had been bullied in some way, whether it be verbal, physical or via the Internet. That’s not OK. No one should have to deal with a bully, no matter his or her age, but unfortunately that is not the world we live in. My son dealt with a bully last year. Thankfully he was able to calmly take care of it before his father and I even knew it was happening, but not all kids are so lucky.
I don’t know if our travels helped my son address the bully that appeared in his life at the tender age of six, but I do know I have exposed him and celebrated with him the diversity in our neighborhood and those we meet through our travels. He gets worried when he can’t speak to a friend at home because they don’t speak the same language, and yet whenever we are in another country, he happily finds local children to run around with, because playing is a universal language. Reminding him that playing is easy to do, even if he doesn’t speak Spanish, and that we never exclude someone just because they may be different, is an important lesson for him, and his little brother, to always remember. It’s not always that easy though, especially for children who aren’t being taught at home that differences are special, not something to mock.
Across the globe we see bullies in action. Intolerances and differences make people afraid, causing them to show force and cause harm when it might not have been necessary. By traveling with your children, you are showing them the differences in this world aren’t scary, but something to be celebrated. When children hear other languages being spoken, see different colors of skin, and smell and taste the flavors of a new place, their minds are open to the possibilities the world has to offer. They see it as an adventure, not something that separates them from their peers and should be mocked.
Bullying accomplishes nothing. It hurts all parties involved, no matter how old or young you are, no matter where you come from and no matter what country you live in. Until we all acknowledge that bullying is a real, preventable thing, nothing will change. By bringing awareness to bullying and bullying prevention, we can all spread the word that we will not tolerate this aggressive behavior that has caused more than one child to give up hope.
To get the word out, I’ve partnered with CustomInk to spread the message of bullying prevention through a T-shirt campaign. They asked several athletes and celebrities, including Jordan Smith, Lizzy Greene, Jenna Ortega and Charlie Puth, to finish the statement “Be ____.” What came out of this project was a series of shirts that feature a positive and motivational message that reinforces self-worth and acceptance.
Here’s a sampling of the t-shirt slogans
- Be Unique
- Be Humble
- Be Unbreakable
- Be the One
- Be True to Yourself
- Be the Strength Someone Needs
Now through the end of October you can help prevent bullying and spread a message of love and acceptance by buying one of these shirts, or even creating your own. CustomInk will donate profits from the sales of bullying prevention t-shirts to benefit PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center, a company that strives to engage, educate and unite communities across the United States.
Grab a few for your family, or design a unique t-shirt just for your school or sports team. The more we spread awareness that bullying is not to be tolerated, and everyone’s unique differences are what make this world so amazing, the more children we can save from feeling like less than what they are.
This post was written in partnership with CustomInk. Although I was compensated for this promotion, bullying prevention is something I strongly believe in and actively fight against at home. Many thanks to some of the neighborhood kids who helped me out by showing off their bullying prevention muscles.