Catching Snowflakes || Athens OH Photographer ||

Lia taking a break from her lessons to get some fresh air :)

Sixth grade is really hard for some girls. Some girls are really sensitive and feel things a little deeper, and get hurt a little easier. My oldest daughter is that type of girl. This year there were budget cuts and two elementary schools in our district merged, and what that brought with it are alot of Queen Bee power struggles with the 6th grade girls. Some became very hateful and ugly to each other. One girl in particular has been a huge source of torment for my daughter and several other little girls in her class. It makes me sick to my stomach that there is nothing the school could or would do to get this problem child under control. Bullying now is very different than it was when I was her age. Most of it is not physical. These girls manipulate, steal each others friends, attempt to ruin your social status, say and do things that make your insides twist up, make you feel ugly inside, make you feel alienated. It's called relational aggression and it usually falls below the teachers radar. Not only is it happening in our schools, but it's also been taken online. And they hide behind a computer screen or phone or ipod, and they are no longer afraid of any consequences. These 11 year olds have facebook and iphones. They have filthy mouths and violent tempers. They wear make-up and short skirts. They have boyfriends and some are already doing things with those boyfriends.  AT ELEVEN YEARS OLD.  I can't even begin to comprehend it.

After many meetings with the school guidance counselor, principal, and emails to the superintendent, we realized there was nothing they were going to do to stop this. Their pathetic attempt at a solution was to sit the girls down and talk with them. Several times. Parents were notified. Several Times. Think it made any difference? Not one single bit. In fact, I think it may have made it worse. Grades were suffering, emotional and physical well-being were suffering, and I refuse to let this become another statistic, another news story with a tragic ending. What other choice do I have? Nobody at the school seemed to take this situation serious enough. So we decided to pull her out and are going to homeschool for the remainder of this year, while we work on confidence, self protection, and coping strategies. I'm leaving out alot of details, but just know that this is a very delicate situation and this is happening everywhere. Just in the past few weeks I've seen at least 6 facebook statuses about similar situations with other parents' kids. It must be taken seriously, even if it doesn't seem like a very big deal to the adults, it IS to the child. And at such a young age they do not yet possess the coping skills or understand how to deal with the situation. The emotional damage can be permanent. It's so important to teach our kids how to channel their feelings in a healthy way, and how to cope in a difficult situation. It's important we teach them acceptance and tolerance, and to stand up against the hate. That hate is everywhere, from television shows, to other kids' parents, to political advertising. They need to know that kind of behavioris wrong. They need to learn how to swim through muddy waters and still come out clean. They need to learn self protection, mental and physical. They need to learn self-love.

My good friend Becky of FMPhoto created an Affirmation Project about this very subject. If you've got a minute to  check it out here , go show her some support and let her know what a great thing she's doing.

I also want to thank those who have sent notes of love and encouragement to Lia throughout the past month. Your kindness has touched our family more than you know. I'm in the process of compiling everything into an Affirmation notebook for her to revisit on her bad days as a way to uplift her spirits. As a reminder of how much she is loved.

Parents - keep a close eye on your babes. They are never too young to fall victim to this, and many keep it bottled up and do not share what is happening. Watch for behavioral changes, sudden outbursts, mood swings, depression, isolation, lack of motivation, loss of interest in favorite activities, and anxiety before school. Do not leave them alone if you witness these behaviors. Take them offline. Talk to them. Comfort them.

LOVE THEM.

And keep communication open. Do not judge. Most importantly, do not write it off as "kids just being kids".

"Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless."

Mother Teresa.