“Raise your hand if you have ever felt personally victimized by Regina George.”
Seriously though, raise your hand if you know what it feels like to be bullied.
I do. And I know I’m not the only one. Bullying is one of the most pervasive problems for teenagers today. Because of the technological culture we live in, most interactions happen online, making it hard to identify and address any bullying that’s taking place.
It’s sort of like trying to fight an invisible fire: you aren’t sure where to find the most dangerous hot spots.
That’s why it was so enlightening to have the chance to speak with Kind Campaign founders Lauren Parsekian and Molly Thompson about how parents can help their kids deal with the minefield that is modern bullying.
The Kind Campaign is a non-profit founded in 2009 when Lauren and Molly met at Pepperdine University and discovered they shared a similar bullying experience when they were in school. They decided to travel across the nation and make a documentary to bring awareness “to the negative and lasting effects of girl-against-girl” bullying.
That documentary, Finding Kind, has sparked a movement in schools. Lauren and Molly have traveled the country speaking to teenage girls and hosting screenings.
My conversation with these two women triggered a flood of memories of my own experience with bullies in high school. I was targeted for several years beginning when I was 15. Each morning I woke up with a terrible, gnawing feeling in my gut. I was scared to walk outside of my own home because almost every week my yard would be littered with homemade signs and garbage thrown on my lawn saying what a disgusting bitch I was and that everyone at school hated me.
My parents would try and hide it from me because they never wanted me to go to school upset. But the assaults continued, and the aggression only got worse as the years passed. At one point, awful words were spray-painted on my car with black paint and the windshield wipers and antenna were broken off.
It took a long time to wipe the graffiti off my car, but even longer for me to move on from the pain. I only cried to a few of my closest friends during those years and always wondered who would have so much hatred in their hearts to do this to a teenage girl. When I eventually discovered that it was actually the mother of an ex-friend who had been bullying me for years, I realized that the animosity between women didn’t end after a certain age.
Lauren and Molly both emphasized how much the lasting psychological and emotional effects of being bullied can impact a person. For me, this manifested in the loss of my confidence and spark.
As time passed, I slowly healed and gained it back. But I will never forget the pain I went through, and I firmly believe that things for me could have been different had this campaign had been around when I was younger.
How can I speak with my future daughters about this kind of bullying to save them from heartbreak and unbearable sadness? How can we all speak to our daughters and sisters and friends today?
Lauren and Molly both heavily encourage parents to “start this conversation as young as possible,” because it can help young girls better prepare themselves against bullying.
But when is the right age to start talking with your daughters and what exactly do you say?
“A great way to gauge when the appropriate time to talk is just by making sure you are really open and honest with them and just listen and be open to hearing them,” Lauren and Molly advised.
Though the emotional effects are the same, each generation faces a new form of bullying. Lauren and Molly spoke without hesitation about the face of today’s torment: cyber-bullying.
“Everyone has a cellphone at school (which) follows the kids back home after the bell rings. It’s a constant cycle of not being able to escape those social pressures and the anxiety because everyone is connected constantly,” they said.
My sister dealt with this type of cyber-bullying when she was 16. Girls at her school started a website about her, bashing everything from what she said at school to the outfit she wore for her homecoming dance. She tearfully admitted to me that she didn’t know what to do about it. She did ultimately decided to confront the bullies, and I was so proud of her for refusing to let them win.
I think the one thing that helped both my sister and me was having an outlet outside of school. Lauren and Molly recommended this as well, saying, “One of the most important pieces of advice we can give to parents is to get your child enrolled in extra-curricular activities … It creates a community outside of the school hallways and creates the confidence and something to look forward to.
After-school activities may not be an option for every girl, however, which is why we need to stand up and silence the negativity.
The cold, hard reality is the bullying won’t stop unless we all join in Lauren and Molly’s mission and preach kindness instead of jealousy and spite.
As mothers, daughter, sisters, and friends, we must do everything we can to lead by example and raise strong, kind girls who will grow up to be strong, kind women.
The Kind Campaign spring tour just kicked off and you can follow their journey on their Instagram account. To give or donate to this awesome cause check out their website here. All proceeds go into making their program free of charge for the collaborating schools.More On