By the time you read this, in theory, it will finally be over; the circus that we call a presidential election will come to an end.
But you and I both know the challenges and threats to our families and children may just be beginning.
We’ve seen it steadily building over the last year. You may have read about the “build-a-wall” banner hung in an Oregon high school. Or maybe heard about the Muslim and Latino students attacked in Kansas by a man shouting, “Trump will take our country from you guys!” while calling them “brown trash.” Or perhaps you’ve read about the Latino students in North Carolina who carry around their birth certificates and Social Security cards out of fear they will be deported - the “Trump Effect” has already begun and continues to grow into a voracious monster.
And his vitriolic rhetoric is unlikely to stop on November 8th.
Add to this the problem that all of his hateful speech has given new life to every bigot, racist, and supremacist within our country who has until now been more or less restrained by the popular demand for human decency. Unfortunately, he has with his own disgusting words and actions validated their outlook leading to open, unapologetic declarations of hate and even worse, turning their words into actions.
So what do we do? We prepare. It’s time to tighten our cinturones and brace ourselves. I want us to be realistic.
The time to protect our families is here. We need to give our children the tools they need to defend themselves. Those tools include Caution, Strength, and a Voice. To avoid violence, we must talk openly with our children about the possible dangers they may encounter and prepare them to think quickly and act accordingly. We must urge them to be ever vigilant, aware of their surroundings, and mindful of who is nearby.
We must encourage them to be brave and to stand together. We must help them understand the importance of speaking up to identify those who do wrong in order to protect ourselves - and others - from future injustice. No longer do we suffer alone in silence.
Now is the time to create change together. But in order to improve our country and help it to see diversity as beautiful and beneficial, we have to be that change. We have to be kind to everyone. We have to feel compassion and be supportive. Most importantly, we have to set the example for our children, so they will be strong and proud of who they are, unafraid to share their culture. For it is ignorance that leads to stereotypes, and ignorance that causes fear and hatred.
I have faith in the American people. I know that there are more of us who want to do what is right, than there are those who choose to embrace selfish ignorance. But I also realize that change doesn’t happen overnight.
First, we have to reassure our children that they are safe and that we are here to help and protect them. We need to explain our democratic government and teach them that disagreeing with others is not an excuse for violence and hatred. Then we discuss some ways to help your children avoid bullies inside and outside of school.
Take the time to read about bullying so that you can identify the signs.
Someone who hurts you physically, mentally, or emotionally once, unintentionally is simply foolish, rude, or ignorant.
Someone who knowingly hurts you once on purpose is mean.
Someone who knowingly hurts you repeatedly despite you asking them to stop is a bully.
Download this flyer from Edutopia for more information about what bullying is, how to identify it, and how to deal with it.
Talk with your child’s teachers
This is one of the most important steps you can take. Teachers may have a good idea of what is happening in their classroom. They see first-hand the social dynamics between students. And if they don’t see it, and your child tells you they are being bullied, then your child’s teacher and school need to be made aware of it ASAP so that they can implement strategies and tools to reduce bullying behaviors before they escalate.
Monitor your child’s tech devices and social media
In this advanced day and age, cyberbullying has become a very real problem. It’s important for parents to take it seriously. In addition to monitoring your child’s tech devices, it’s critical that you take time to talk with them about cyberbullying and discuss with them what they should do if they become victims. Check out this article to learn what steps you can take.
Teach your child how to respond
It’s critical to empower your child. Bullies are less likely to pick on strong, confident people. Either way, it’s important to arm your child with words and actions that will help them diffuse hostile situations or avoid them altogether.
Talk with your children about how to deal with insults. There are several ways a person can respond to a bully. Here are a few:
Laugh at them. Bullies want to be feared. If you refuse to fear them, you are taking away their sense of control. If they make fun of you for a mistake you made, and you laugh at yourself, it shows that you are confident enough in yourself to do so.
Report it. Immediately. It’s critical that you report bullying behavior to an adult. And it is important that it be an adult who will do something. If a teacher doesn’t respond, then the principal. And definitely tell your parents.
The reality is that bullying can escalate. And it is up to us to keep our kids safe. If you have contacted your child’s teachers and school, and they aren’t doing anything, or if the situation is getting worse, then here are some important precautions...
Walk in groups. Teach your kids to walk together in groups with their friends and other students. There is safety in numbers.
Avoid empty spaces and other places where you might run into the bully. Train your child to be aware of their surroundings and not put themselves in dangerous situations. They should stay in places where they can call for help...and be heard.
Give them a smartphone. Teach them to use Facebook Live quickly. It’s important to document bullies and their behavior so that you have proof. It can also help you get help quickly when you need it.
Explore self-defense classes. Do not mistake this for encouragement to fight back. On the contrary. Students who take Karate or Taekwondo learn self-control and develop self-confidence. Both are important for deterring bullies. But let's face it: If my son or daughter's life were in danger, I'd want them to know how to protect themselves.
Consider homeschooling. If you truly fear for your child’s safety, then it is imperative you remove him or her from that situation. Consider moving him or her to a new school. And if that isn’t an option, think about homeschooling. Over 2 million families in this country homeschool their kids, and I can assure you, that like me, not all of them started because they wanted to or because they knew how to teach. I was scared, but I’m so glad I made the switch. My life changed for the better.
And lastly, consider downloading my free bilingual #RespectEachOther packet to use with your children and students. Change begins with us and with our children.