So what’s new? The times in which we live. Times in which the intensity and venues for bullying, like much else in our world, has escalated tremendously. This leaves us with questions as parents, youth workers, and other caring adults. Questions as to how to prepare students for, protect them from, and prevent bullying.
My heart goes out to the mother of Ashlynn Conner who, as a single parent, did all that she knew to do. Could one have asked more of her? No. And yet, having done her best to prepare her child for what could be a cruel world she now mourns the loss of her daughter. We have to pray for her comfort and the too many mothers who mourn the loss of their children, particularly through suicide related bullying. In Stacy Conner’s own words as reported by The Huffington Post: “‘”I thought my kids were strong,” Connor said. “That my words to them for guidance and advice would have more weight than what these kids were saying. I was wrong.'”The pressure from outside was too much, even with all the positive that was given on the inside.
These are different times.Youth don’t only face bullying the in face-to-face space of school, but also online, and through text messages. It is all pervasive. Sometimes it cannot be switched off.
Adolescents are at a vulnerable stage in their development and bullying attacks them in all the vulnerable areas and places of development: physical, physiological, emotional, social, etc. It is a different time for them; a time when they need support and affirmation as they seek to discover who they are and who God has made them to be.
While we do not have all the answers in youth and student ministry, this does leave us with some questions?
- How are we creating safe spaces for youth to tell their stories so that their hopes, fears, dreams, aspirations, and real life situations can be brought into the light and they get the help they need? Safety in terms of confidentiality, a non-judgmental, open and accepting approach in a space that is unhurried and where the focus is on the students and not the program.
- How do we teach our students the various ways in which bullying occurs and help them to see that what may seem cool to some can be and often is detrimental to others?
- How do we help them to see that bullying runs counter to our faith and loving God and neighbor as we are commanded?
- How do we give them the resources to deal with bullying, whether it be speaking against it, reporting it, educating about it, etc?
- How do we point them to God?
Loving God, Loving Neighbor
Developing Faithful Leaders for a Diverse Church and World Now and in the Future