Imagine this: you’re ten years old. You’ve always had a little bit of trouble fitting in. Maybe you’re not quite talented enough to note social cues as easily as your peers. Maybe you have hobbies that are not “normal” for others your age. Maybe you’re just a little bit too smart, or just a little bit too slow—but whatever it is that causes it, you’ve just never been the most popular person in the room.
It’s always stung; but you’re kind of used to it. It’s pretty much always been that way. You’re happy alone, at least most of the time, and even by ten, you’ve developed some coping mechanisms. Everyone pretty much looks right over you, and even if you don’t like it, you’re accustomed enough to it that you don’t fuss too much about it.
Then things start to change.
Maybe a new kid moves in. Maybe it’s just that another child has grown into a stage where she is testing her power. Whatever the case, it starts with a whisper.
“She’s so weird.”
And then there’s the agreement. “Yeah, I guess.” Maybe the second child isn’t comfortable with it at first; but she doesn’t want to rock the boat. She agrees just to keep things even.
The whispers continue. “Why does she do that?” “Hey, look what she’s doing now!” “Good grief, where did she learn that?”
One day, it’s not just the new girl doing it anymore. One day, the girl who simply agreed looks over, and she sees you doing something a little bit odd, and it makes her laugh—and she shares it.
Then it goes a little bit further. “Do you not know what you’re doing?” “Are you even a member of the same species of us?” “Do you realize that no one likes you?”
No one wants to think that it still happens—but it does. It happens everywhere. Hearts are broken each and every day because it’s easier to pick on one lonely little girl than it is to stand up for her.
Teach your kids to recognize it the moment it starts. Teach them not to spread rumors, or whisper behind their hands. Find books that talk about it. Find movies that show it. Teach them about how it starts—because otherwise, they will be caught all too easily in a trap that can leave scars for a lifetime.