Whenever Jessie hung out with her best friends Chloe and Meg, they gossiped about another seventh-grader named Kate. Jessie didn’t know Kate, but Chloe and Meg said she was clingy, told boring stories and smelled like acne wash.
When Jessie asked questions about this mystery girl, her friends giggled and exchanged knowing glances. This went on for weeks until a boy in her class told Jessie the truth: Kate was their code name for her.
Jessie looked to other friends for support, but they started dropping away. Chloe and Meg had all the social capital, and no one wanted to risk alienating them. Jessie cried every night. Her mother, my neighbor Naomi, called me for advice. “You’re a school counselor,” she said. “What should I do? She’s in so much pain.”
Naomi’s own experience with bullying intensified her anguish. In eighth grade, kids forged her signature on love letters and left them in a popular athlete’s locker. They tugged on her arm hair and called her “monkey.” Naomi suffered from depression after she was mistreated, and she wanted Jessie to have a better outcome.
Bullying strips kids of their dignity and leaves scars. Some children bounce back, while others struggle to rebound. There is no one-size-fits-all intervention, but here are nine ways parents can build a child’s resilience.