Everyone knows that being the odd person out is hard, but it can be easy to forget when that person isn’t you. That’s why this week, when you’re picking teams for a game or partners for a group project in class, choose the new kid or the person who is always picked last, first. They may never forget it
According to one study in the UK, nearly one-third of students who have been bullied have gone on to self-harm.¹⁸ Many forms of self-destructive behavior come from an individual’s belief that they aren’t worthy of love and support. If you notice any of your friends putting themselves down, take one moment this week to tell them some of the reasons why you love and support them. They don’t have to be big things! You can start with, “You’re so awesome and you always make me laugh,” or “No one understands me the way you do—thank you.” Take note of their reaction. You’d be surprised how quickly you can brighten someone’s day.
The shortest distance between you and a new friend is five letters long: h-e-l-l-o. This week, make at least one new friend, and see where it goes. Sound hard? The easiest way to make a new friend is to introduce yourself. Just go up to someone and say, “Hey, I’m ___.” The rest will fall into place.
Perspective and advice from a trusted adult should never be taken for granted. Interview a parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, or favorite teacher this week. Ask what their life was like when they were your age, about a time they stood up for someone, or if they ever saw bullying growing up. You can try starting off with, “Mom, was there much bullying at your school when you were my age?” We suggest bringing a pen and paper 😉
Sometimes we forget that our actions affect the people around us. In fact, our behavior is contagious. We continually set examples for our peers, and a good example can be incredibly persuasive. Every day this week, choose a different person outside of your friend group to approach with an act of kindness. On Monday, maybe pick a kid in your homeroom who you don’t normally talk to and give them a compliment. On Tuesday, reach out to an old teacher of yours and thank them for being awesome. Pay attention to the ripple effects your kindness creates. Others may see the benefits of your actions and start to follow your lead.
LGBTQ students are at a high risk for harassment, and many times this takes the shape of verbal bullying. It can be hard to stand up when someone uses words you disagree with, but this week, make an effort to correct homophobic slurs when you hear them. Respectfully explain to the person who used them why slurs are unkind to those who identify as LGBTQ. Consider saying, “That’s actually hurtful to people who identify as gay,” or “Why are you saying that? ’Gay’ isn’t a bad word.” Be careful not to be mean when you make your comment, as that can cause things to escalate. If interrupting the slurs doesn’t help, get adults involved.
Did you know that, according to one study, the average person only remembers about 25% of what they hear? When a friend is going through something difficult, people have a tendency to want to jump in and give advice right away, but listening well is often more helpful and can be accomplished with some concentration. This week, find at least 3 times to be an active listener. There are many ways you can do this: you can sit with a friend and wait for them to speak first, you can make an effort to maintain eye contact, or you can ask follow-up questions to make sure you’re understanding the situation correctly. The key is to make sure your friend understands that they’re being heard.