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Overcoming Middle School Bullying

Jul 25 2013in Whats New admin Comments Off on Overcoming Middle School Bullying

Overcoming Middle School

Going through high school as an introvert with boy-short hair and poor parents made what most people said were supposed to be the “golden years” feel like the dark ages. I never could talk to my classmates easily and you can forget making friends. I’m not sure which was worse – the times when I was teased or the times when I was completely ignored. I thought something was wrong with me. Why was it so easy for everyone else to fit in when I felt so awkward? Why couldn’t I just be normal? I felt like I didn’t have anyone to talk to and no one understood what I was going through. Sometimes I felt like I would never make it through. Sometimes, looking back, I think I barely did.

When I was in 5th grade, my parents decided to move, in the middle of the school year (of all the times we could have moved!), so that my dad could follow his dream of becoming a full time potter. This meant that I would have to leave a school that I loved and be thrust into the wide open darkness of the unknown. I couldn’t believe that I had no say in the matter. As much as I begged and pleaded, my parents wouldn’t budge. The decision was already made. The offer on our new house had already been accepted. So, not only did I become the “new girl” in the middle of my 5th grade year, it was the last year before I was to enter the terrifying stage of junior high.

Looking back, I now realize that middle school was and is an awkward time for everyone. Hormones and growth spurts turn once-adorable children into freakish half-adults. But, at the time, I really thought I was the only one struggling. I felt so alone. All the other girls were filling out their T-Shirts, if you know what I mean, while mine stayed flat. So, my late-blooming combined with my boy-short hair that I mentioned earlier left me looking like a boy and open to ridicule. It didn’t help that I hated dresses, but that’s a different story for another time.

Before my big brother got his driver’s license and was able to drive us every day, I used to have to ride the bus to and from school. My heart would thump with dread as I stared out the kitchen window into the dark winter mornings waiting for the bus to arrive. It was only a 20-minute ride, but it was the worst 20 minutes of my life. A group of older boys would sit behind me and make fun of my hand-me-down clothes, my beat-up shoes and my frizzy hair, but most days they would just blatantly and generally point out how ugly I was. Sometimes, I would try to make some brazen retort, but they were always better at the insults than I was. I only ended up fueling their fire with my meager attempts to defend myself.  Most of the time, I would shrink as far into my bus seat as I could – trying to become invisible and trying to act as if I didn’t care.

But I did care. Back then, I didn’t knowing how to deal with the hurt, so I turned to food. It became my only friend. I had a few hours after school when I was left to my own devices and, though my mother had tried to teach me some restraint when it came to eating; all the stress was too much for me. I would plop myself down in front of the TV and gorge myself on half a package of Oreos, bagels with cream cheese, potato chips, pop tarts and ice cream – all in one sitting.

As a result, even though I had never before had to worry about my weight, this binging at the same time I was going through the lovely stage of puberty not only began to pack on the pounds, but even worse, triggered nasty mood swings.  During this time and for years after, I had no control over my emotions and I didn’t know why. I blamed my ups and downs (downs more than ups) on teenage hormones, then on stress, then on genetics. I finally chalked them up to the fact that I must just be crazy.

What I wish I knew then and what I do know now, after years of research and self-experimentation, is that the food I thought was helping me cope was actually making my life harder. I had sunken into a depression that was fueled by bad food choices. My ability to socialize went from bad to worse. And the extra inches on my waistline demolished what was left of my self-esteem.  What I didn’t realize was that I was treating myself just as badly as those boys on the bus were.

But there was a better way. You see, my biggest problem wasn’t that I had been bullied and teased. My biggest problem was that I had begun to believe the bullies. I had begun to believe that I was ugly and unworthy of love. And therefore, I had stopped loving myself. And, one day, for some reason I still don’t fully understand, I had had enough of my misery. I was tired of feeling bad all the time. So, I made a decision to pull myself out of the hole I was living in. I couldn’t control what my bullies said or did, but I could control my own thoughts and actions. Little by little, I began to show myself love again. I participated in school activities that I was good at like choir and drama, I surrounded myself with my family and my church who I knew loved me unconditionally (even if I was ugly), and I began writing poetry and songs to help work through my feelings. And then, I put down the junk food. I didn’t need it anymore.

While healthy eating may not solve all the world’s problems (though I tend to think it might), it can do a lot toward making us feel better and function at our best. Just like putting the right gasoline in your car will make it run best, fueling your body with the right foods will improve not only your physical appearance, but it will also enhance your brain function, sky-rocket your mood, strengthen your resilience to stress, clear up skin problems and give you the energy to easily get through the day.

Fueling my body with healthy food is just one way that I began to actively love myself again. When I truly loved who I was, the teasing slowly, but surely, stopped. They could not hurt me anymore.

Through healthy food, supportive friends, an uncompromising passion to follow my dreams and a somewhat newly developed compassion for others, I have found balance and control over my emotions. And I have a life filled with my wildest dreams.

I urge you to begin to listen to your heart, even if it’s breaking. Listen to your body, because it’s perfect just the way it is and it knows what it needs. It is time to begin the journey toward loving yourself. Buddha said, “You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe deserve your love and affection.” You can’t really argue with Buddha. When you love you, you are loved by someone special. 

 "Sarah Anderson, founder of Beautiful Health Within, is an Emotional Eating Expert, Coach & Writer. She provides food therapy to emotional eaters all over the country to crank their energy, drop the weight and rock their lives. Visit www.beautifulhealthwithin.com to learn more."

 

 

 

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New online and offline campaign to Address Bullying Strategies for Boys

May 14 2013in Whats New admin Comments Off on New online and offline campaign to Address Bullying Strategies for Boys

New Campgaign focuses on Bullying Strategies for Boys

Boys will be boys.  This common idiom may veil the heinous actions adolescent and teenage boys cast upon their male peers.  Bullying can take on many forms, ranging from name-calling, taunting to unwanted physical contact or even sexting, which can leave a target of bullying feeling very vulnerable. Name-calling is not as prevalent among female bullies as it is among males.

Snitching, or tattle-telling, is looked down upon by most students.  In fact, 80 percent of students never report bullying to an adult.  Both bystanders and targets of bullying are fearful of retaliation.  In order to support boys who are the targets of bullying overcome or handle a bullying situation, Beyond Bullies will be implementing a new online and offline campaign that will be addressing and teaching specific strategies that young boys can use against verbal bullying in a "classy" or "cool" fashion while receiving acceptance from their peers.

The saying fight fire with fire however is not applicable against verbal bullies because it is ineffective.  When a male bullying taunts his target, he wants a negative reaction in order to elevate his popularity and power. 

Unfortunately, many male students have been suspended when they have fought back verbally or physically after the bullying took its toll.  The bully wants his target to fight back and to demoralize them.  In an effort to help a target, Beyond Bullies will show boys how to divert the attack in a calm manner, while simultaneously gaining support from surrounding bystanders.

Learn More Now! 

 Written by, Jason Lam

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Recognizing Bullying Signs. An Interview with an Internationally Recognized Bullying Expert

Jan 24 2013in Whats New admin Comments Off on Recognizing Bullying Signs. An Interview with an Internationally Recognized Bullying Expert

 

Warning Signs of Bullying 

An Interview with Internationally Recognized Bullying Expert Michal Kolář

Dr. Michal Kolář is a psychotherapist who has been treating bullying for more than 30 years. He has created a special theory and methodology for the diagnosis and treatment of bullying at schools. He also works with the International and European Observatories on School Violence.

In my interview with Michal Kolář, he talked to me about the difficulty parents have when their children suffer from bullying.  In his book, A New Way to Treat Bullying, Michal writes about the signals parents can look for if their child is a target of bullying. Michal says bullying signs can be difficult to detect and parents who do notice that something is wrong with their child often find that it is very frustrating to get help from teachers and administrators.

Michal explains that when a parent tries to talk to teachers or administrators, they are quick to point fingers and tell them that their child provoked the situation or in some instances started it.  It is common for a parent to hear there was not enough evidence, their child yelled or pushed the bully and no witnesses.  Additionally, often times, when the target and the bully are both suspended and then come back to school, there are no consequences in place to protect the target from the bully or their friends. 

If school polices are in place but do not provide teachers with specific consequences for bullying behavior, children are in jeopardy of being harmed.  Many children, whether they have a good relationship with their parents or not have a difficult time admitting that other kids are mean to them or carrying out a campaign to ruin their reputations.  A target of bullying often believes that somehow they caused the bullying or in some way deserved it.  Michal says, “Admitting to an adult that other kids laugh, push or make fun of you can be a very shameful experience.” Making matters worse is a home environment where siblings or parents put down or ignore the child’s feelings, increasing their insecurities and low self-esteem.  

Weekly, there are stories about parents who are shocked and saddened to learn that their child was a target of bullying.  Their cries for help do not have to go unseen or undone by parents.  In fact, “Individual signals do not necessarily denote bullying“, he explains.  He places much more significance on the context of the situation, the repetition and frequency of symptoms.  His work was written up for the Ministry of Education. (Guideline Minister of Education, Youth and Sports to prevent and address bullying among school pupils and school facilities)

Signs and Signals of Bullying

• The child does not have friends over or seems to have no friends.

• The child is subdued, sad and depressed.
• S/he suffers from poor sleep, sleep disorders and nightmares.
• They have a lack of interest in participating in sports, family dinners or events.
• Before going to school or after school, complains about headaches, stomach aches, etc.
• Many children visit a doctor or say they are sick before school to avoid bullies.  

• Children may go to school or from school using detours.
• Students may come home with torn clothes, damaged or missing backpack & school aids.
• Make different excuses for losing lunch money and require more money.
• Children may come home hungry even when snacks and lunch were provided at school.
• Child cannot satisfactorily explain his injuries: a black eye, scrapes, bruises,
    slight concussions, a broken or pulled bone, burns, etc.

• Sudden drop in grades and no interest in studying
• Threatens suicide or attempts it

”There are some children that do try to talk to their parents about their difficulties at school,” Kolář says.  “In the beginning stages of bullying, there are cases when the child finds the strength and courage to talk to their parents.  It is very important that when a child opens up about a humiliating experience that a parent should listen, show emotional support and take everything they say seriously. Unfortunately, many parents are act surprised when they first learn about the bullying.  They often react inappropriately.  The only right attitude is to stand firm in love for the child.”

Written by, Melissa Sherman, Executive Director, Beyond Bullies www.beyondbullies.org

 

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Getting Bullied By Your Parents

Dec 3 2012in Whats New admin Comments Off on Getting Bullied By Your Parents

This article explores the ways parents and adults bully and how the children under their wing can protect themselves from future harm

When we think about bullying, often the thought of parents bullying their children are not the images we associate with it. While the situation at home may be one that is intolerable, there are adult role models, such as counselors at school, coaches, aunts or uncles and other adult figures that young people can turn to for support. Beyond Bullies also offers an online confidential chat for bullied teens by their peers.

Fifteen-year-old Beyond Bullies volunteer, Semara, (last name not used for privacy) studied the five-step recovery model in Karyl McBride’s book, Will I Ever Be Good Enough, to shed light on the steps children can take to protect themselves against parents who bully them.   

Tough Love is an expression often used when you treat someone harshly or sternly to bring about some positive change.

There is usually love behind a veil of toughness, but what happens when this power parents’ use gets out of hand and how can we tell the difference between what is genuine or what is deceptively done to hinder us?

As children, we see images of the stereotypical family; a loving and comforting mother and the kind and protective father, always encouraging and supporting their kids every step of the way. For many of us, this could not be farther from reality.

Some of us may not face our bullies outside at school, but within the walls of the very place, we call home. Whether your mom or dad says phrases such as, “You’ll never be good enough!” or “Can’t you do anything right you ___?” can be very commonly spewed out by them, much more so than genuine encouragement, acceptance or love.

Bullied children may have several experiences of their parents insulting them in front of relatives or maybe even strangers. A parent sharing your faults with others repeatedly can be humiliating and unfair. Others may now label you as the undisciplined or angry child, while the parents look like the concerned authorities.

When adults are talking about you, it is difficult to stand up for yourself.  Adults are more adept at getting their points across and most children are not able to communicate calmly and logically in order to defend themselves.

This type of adult bullying can also extend to teachers who talk to other teachers about you, which can also tarnish your reputation.

When your parents and the adults you trust are putting you down and insulting you, it can hurt your self-esteem and can extend to anything you do in life. It can lead to wounds that can never be recognized or healed and maybe even the root to some of our issues we currently face as adults.

Children may suffer from social anxiety as a result and try to please everyone around us out of desperation to win approval, the one we have never gotten from our parents. Some may end up as overachievers while others may end up as underachievers; believing they really are good for nothing, so why even bother to try?

Semmy contributed to the article. She is a 15-year-old high school student from Malaysia.

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The Dangers of Sexting

Nov 19 2012in Whats New admin Comments Off on The Dangers of Sexting

 

An Innocent Flirtation Can Alter Your Life Forever

While sexting is becoming more and more popular, so is ignorance toward its consequences. Sending, receiving, or forwarding sexually explicit photographs or messages via an electronic device falls under the category of sexting. The real trouble begins when minors get involved.

A study conducted by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy shows that 51% of teen girls feel pressured to send/post sexually suggestive content.

There are many reasons why girls send semi-nude or nude photos. If their peers are sexting, there is more pressure on them to conform. Many are experimenting with their sexuality and wanting to feel sexy or dealing with pressures from a boyfriend, friend, or stranger.

What begins as playful flirting may have serious repercussions. Sending as photo with the intent to harm another person, may be considered cyber bullying and child pornography.

The most common scenario is when a young couple sends each other an explicit photograph, but one of them decides to send it to their friends, after they breakup.  

Having your photos exposed to the student body in a very private way can have a detrimental effect on that student’s performance in school, social life, and attitude at home. Unfortunately, there have been many incidents where teens felt so humiliated when their photos were texted to students at school they ended their lives. 

For many parents who have lost their children to suicide after their pictures were shared at school, this is a very serious matter. So far, there has been child pornography charges filed against some teens in the United States.  Being a registered sex-offender before hitting age 20 is something that can very well ruin a future with goals that were once attainable. Charges relating to child pornography may affect a student’s chances at getting a job. Consequences include but are not limited to jail time, expulsion from school, organizations, sports teams, etc. If charged, the law will put you on the same level as those who have molested, raped and explicitly photographed children.

Pointing, whispering, ignoring, or making fun of a victim of such humiliation are ways that make a passerby just another bully. Treating this person as if you would treat them without the incident is the right path to take.

There are countless articles written, studies done, and television specials made to educate the public about these things and it’s as easy as turning on the computer or the TV. Just a simple talk can be the difference, and it is especially effective if it is all discussed before giving phone and social networking privileges. It’s always a good reminder that texting and being on social sites is a privilege, and if this privilege is taken advantage of, a world of consequences can follow.

Leda Costa, a volunteer with Beyond Bullies, http://www.beyondbullies.org contributed to the article,

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Beyond Bullies Teen Leadership Program Fundraiser ~ We Need your Help!

Nov 12 2012in Whats New admin Comments Off on Beyond Bullies Teen Leadership Program Fundraiser ~ We Need your Help!

Beyond Bullies Teen Leadership Pilot Program Event Fundraiser

Studies indicate that bullying spikes in middle school. Students impacted by bullying are most vulnerable to peer pressure and falling grades. The Beyond Bullies Teen Leadership program provides an opportunity for teens to talk about subjects such as, cyberbullying and sexting in a way that their peers can understand and ultimately protect themselves. BB fills this tech void while integrating creative methods to reach young people. Your donation help will jump-start a very critical program that will have the potential to reach schools spread throughout the country. Protect students now. Your donation will make a difference.

http://www.crowdrise.com/beyondbulliesteenlea1/fundraiser/beyondbullies

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Beyond Bullies is Set To Meet with Members of the Australian Parliament to Discuss Sexting

Nov 7 2012in Whats New admin Comments Off on Beyond Bullies is Set To Meet with Members of the Australian Parliament to Discuss Sexting

Sexting is a Growing Problem that is Hard to Regulate in the United States and Abroad

The Parliament of Victoria Australia’s Law Reform Committee is meeting with Beyond Bullies to discuss sexting among adolescents and teens. 

The committee is currently conducting an inquiry on sexting – the sharing of sexually explicit content on electronic devices. The committee intends to travel to Canada and the United States to gain an international perspective on legislative and policy responses to sexting and cyber-bullying.

“Sexting can have severe consequences for minors, yet a large percentage of youth are willing to take the risk to use sexting as a means to share nude or partially nude photos. One sext can result in jail time, expulsion from school, sports teams, rejections from colleges and future employment,” says Sherman. 

Members of the committee will meet with Sherman to discuss the legal issues that can arise from sexting, approaches to educate teens on the harmful effects of sexting as well obtaining general information about the phenomenon of sexting.

Beyond Bullies assist teens to become involved in leadership positions in their schools by providing opportunities for them online and offline to become aware, confident and caring role models.

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Beyond Bullies to Visit University High School During Anti-Bullying Week

Nov 4 2012in Whats New admin Comments Off on Beyond Bullies to Visit University High School During Anti-Bullying Week

Beyond Bullies is Set to Meet with the Dean and Postive Teen Support Program Director to Discuss Teen Leadership Partnership 

Los Angeles, CA – Beyond Bullies Executive Director, Melissa Sherman, will visit University High School Monday, November 5th to speak with school officials about a partnership for a Teen Leadership program.

Sherman says, "Studies indicate middle school students are most vulnerable to attack, addiction, peer pressure and lower grades.  The Beyond Bullies Teen Leadership program addresses these issues as well as subjects, such as sexting and cyber bullying that are taught and implemented to keep students safe and well equipped. Teen leaders will fill this tech void while integrating creative methods to reach children."

Beyond Bullies discusses the program at University High during first day of anti-bullying week. Beyond Bullies is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping teens and adolescents who are targets of bullying and cyber-bullying. The organization has developed a Teen Leadership program that will focus on middle schools and high schools, and gives students the opportunity to stand up and speak out against bullying.

University High School will host its 3rd Annual Anti-Bullying week beginning Monday. Sherman will be joining the students during lunch as events kick off.

Beyond Bullies assist teens to become involved in leadership positions in their schools by providing opportunities for them online and offline to become aware, confident and caring role models. 

 

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Sending a Sexual Message may Result in Felony Charges, Lost Scholarships and Job Opportunities

Sep 17 2012in Whats New admin Comments Off on Sending a Sexual Message may Result in Felony Charges, Lost Scholarships and Job Opportunities

 

From Sexting to Prison

            In today’s society, cell phones play a major part in everyday life. Cell phones create an efficient world for all of us but it can also create another world for criminality. This criminality can be in the form of texting while using sexual images or videos known as "sexting". Sexting can have major ramifications for teenagers. Sending nude photos or even semi-nude photos of minors constitutes as child pornography and teens do not realize posting illicit pictures on Facebook, Myspace, showing it to friends, or simply sending it or storing it electronically can bring forth a felony charge. The Federal Government is very stern on what the definition of child pornography is.  Basically, any drawing, picture, image or video depicting a minor in a sexually explicit manner is child pornography. This means that if an individual is caught "sexting" a picture of a minor they can be put in prison and be labeled as a sex offender for life.

            It is important to understand that the federal government can charge an individual with child pornography and states can have separate laws to charge an individual in regards to sexting. There are currently new legislatures introduced in twenty-one different states. These states are reviewing current laws and punishments and possibly revise laws already in place towards electronic pornography. Nine states have already enacted legislation towards sexting, most states tend to follow suit shortly after. These states are as follows:

ALASKA
H.B. 127
Status: 6/23/2011, Signed by Governor, but sexting provisions were amended out of enacted version.
Relates to the crimes of stalking, online enticement of a minor, unlawful exploitation of a minor, endangering the welfare of a child, sending an explicit image of a minor, harassment, distribution of indecent material to minors, and misconduct involving confidential information.

FLORIDA

H.B. 75
Status: 6/21/11, Signed by Governor. Chapter 2011-180.
Provides that minor commits offense of sexting if he or she knowingly uses computer or other device to transmit or distribute photograph or video of himself or herself which depicts nudity and is harmful to minors, or knowingly possesses such photograph or video that was transmitted or distributed to minor from another minor; provides that transmission or distribution of multiple photographs or videos is single offense if such photographs and videos were transmitted or distributed in same 24-hour period; provides that possession of multiple photographs or videos that were transmitted or distributed by minor is single offense if such photographs and videos were transmitted or distributed by minor in same 24-hour period; provides that act does not prohibit prosecution of minor for conduct relating to material that includes depiction of sexual conduct or sexual excitement or for stalking.

IOWA
D.1251
Relates to child pornography and sexting.

NEVADA
S. B. 277
Status: 6/3/11, Signed by Governor, Chapter 245
Revises provisions governing certain acts by juveniles relating to the possession, transmission and distribution of certain sexual images.

NORTH DAKOTA
H.B. 1372
Status: 3/21/2011, Signed by Governor. Chapter 99.
Relates to the creation, possession, or dissemination of sexually expressive images.

RHODE ISLAND
H.B. 5094
Status: 7/12/2011. Signed by Governor, Public Law 2011-270.
Prohibits the use of a computer or other telecommunication device to transmit an indecent visual depiction of himself or herself to another person, which is commonly known as sexting, by minors; provides that any violation of this act is deemed a status offense and shall be referred to the family court. This act would take effect upon passage. 

S.B. 733
Status: 7/12/2011. Signed by Governor, Public Law 2011-295.
Would create various criminal offenses relating to Internet activity. This act would take effect upon passage.

SOUTH DAKOTA
S.B. 179
Defines and prohibits the offenses of juvenile sexting and aggravated juvenile sexting and provides for certain sanctions and remedies.

TEXAS
S.B. 407
Status: 6/17/11, Signed by Governor
Relates to the creation of the offense of electronic transmission of certain visual material depicting a minor and to certain educational programs concerning the prevention and awareness of that offense.

GUAM
Bill No. 41-31 (COR)
Status: March 8, 2011, Signed by Governor
Relates to bullying, cyberbullying and sexting.   

To learn more about states that have introduced or our considering bills or resolutions against sexting http://www.ncsl.org/issues-research/telecom/sexting-legislation-2012.aspx

*State Legislature information was retrieved from www.ncsl.org and should not be mistaken as legal advice*

By Alan J. Stevenson, Veteran, Criminal Justice/Information Security and Assurance Student

 

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Having a Mentor can Help with School, Bullying and Creativity

Feb 27 2012in Whats New admin Comments Off on Having a Mentor can Help with School, Bullying and Creativity

Q&A with Jill Gurr

Q: Jill you’ve written a wonderful book about mentoring and mentoring groups. What inspired you to write, Mentor Youth Now: A Guidebook for Transforming Young Lives?

A: In 1996, I founded a nonprofit organization called Create Now after I had taught a Screenwriting workshop to a group of incarcerated teenage boys. Not only did many of these kids learn how to read and write through my program, but many wanted to return to school or go to college. One tough gang leader even had tattoos removed. I taught a second workshop and got the same results. I realized that these successes were largely due to the relationships that I had developed with the youth, and their support from a few mentors that I brought in. Over the last 16 years, I’ve personally mentored dozens of the most troubled kids in our community and have trained and matched mentors with hundreds of kids. Some of the results from these mentoring relationships are astounding.

Q: How does mentoring transform someone’s life?

A: I think that kids respond so well to mentors is because they realize that someone who isn’t getting paid and isn’t their parent actually cares enough about them to volunteer their time. With a mentor, youth have a trusted adult who they can turn to without fear of punishment if they want to share secrets or ask certain questions. Mentors expose their menthes to many diverse opportunities and resources that they might not be aware of, and help them to find their goals. Mentors broaden their menthes’ horizons, encourage higher education or potential careers and support these youth in a variety of different ways by giving them encouragement and building self-esteem and confidence.

Children who are bullied could be reluctant to tell their parents because they may feel their child is complaining too much, or being weak. Siblings and friends possibly don’t want to get involved. They could also be so embarrassed about the problem that they hide the abuse.

As mentors, you’re already serving a valuable purpose by being a sounding board for your mentees, so they can vent their feelings to someone who is sympathetic and a good listener. Your compassion and encouragement is priceless, whether your mentee is being bullied, or if he or she is the bully, since bullies have feelings too, including anxiety, fear and guilt.

Q: What makes a good mentor?

A: A good mentor must always be reliable and punctual. These kids will look at you as a role model, so you should not disappoint them because they will look forward to your meeting. Build trust and learn how to LISTEN. It’s very important that you hear what they tell you and let them know that you get it, without passing judgment or forcing your beliefs. Don’t contradict your mentee’s parents or guardian since you can’t overstep your boundaries. Be available when your mentee reaches out to you.

Q: What are the benefits to mentors?

A: Mentors report that they are happier with their careers, fulfilled from volunteering in their community, and they feel better about themselves for having impacted someone’s life. Mentors develop leadership skills, enhanced interpersonal skills and a deeper understanding of youth. They receive admiration from their associates, have an opportunity to meet a challenge and they get along better with their own families.

Q: What are the benefits to mentees?

A: Research shows that 46% of youth who are mentored are less likely to use drugs; 52% are less likely to skip school and one-third are less likely to hit someone. They are more confident of their performance in school and they get along better with their families.

Q: What is the difference between being a mentor or a school counselor?

A: A mentor forms a personal relationship with a student and they become an advocate. They often become extended family members. However, a school counselor must keep a professional distance and not get involved in issues that aren’t directly related to school, unless they suspect there is abuse or neglect, which they must report to authorities. In regards to bullying, a child might be afraid to report this to a school counselor for fear that the information could leak out and have repercussions. Yet they usually trust their mentor enough to open up about sensitive topics and to seek guidance.

Q: How can we teach mentors to be more open- minded?

A: It’s really important to keep an open mind when you’re mentoring, since your mentee(s) might confide things that you are very much against. For instance, what if your mentee confides that he is using illegal drugs, or she tells you that she’s pregnant. You probably have strong opinions about these issues and you want to convince your mentee to follow your guidance. However, if they think that you’re going to just lecture them, or possibly report them to their parents, teacher or another authority, they will close up and not trust you anymore. Try to find a balance and send them to professionals in that field who can support them.

Q: Has your view of mentoring changed overtime?

Yes! When I founded Create Now, I thought it was the arts workshops that drew the kids and got them to change their lives. I discovered that arts mentoring really does make an impact, since kids learn valuable skills, develop goals and build self-esteem when they accomplish things. However, I’ve discovered that while the arts are precious as a motivator and an educational tool, as well as a positive creative outlet, it’s actually the mentoring relationship that affects youth. You could be coaching a sports team, taking kids on a hike in nature or just hanging out and watching TV with your mentees. It’s the fact that an adult cares enough about them that they want to spend time together, and they have someone they can trust to turn to when they need help. That’s powerful stuff!

Jill Gurr founded the Los Angeles based charity Create Now (www.createnow.org) in 1996, which transforms the lives of vulnerable children ages 2-25 through arts mentoring programs. Jill’s new book, “Mentor Youth Now: A Guidebook for Transforming Young Lives” is packed with valuable information and resources so that anyone can learn how to mentor kids and it’s available at: www.mentoryouthnow.com

 

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