By Eric Braun, coauthor of The Survival Guide for Money Smarts
As October winds down, we reach the end of another successful National Bullying Prevention Month. The national campaign to raise awareness about bullying prevention was started by PACER in 2006, making this month its tenth anniversary. As of mid-October, nearly 74,000 kids have already signed PACER’s “Bullying ends with me” petition. That’s inspiring!
The end of October also brings Halloween, that holiday when children and adults dress up as someone (or something) else and cut loose for a little fun. (Ten years ago the most popular costume for teens was from V for Vendetta. For little girls, it was the always-popular princess, but Wonder Woman was number two. For boys, it was a muscle-shirt Superman. Cute!) Kids might get to stay up late on a school night and eat more junk food than is normally allowed. Adults, too, might overdo things a little.
Sometimes the cut-loose spirit of Halloween can lead to extra peer pressure and bullying. Maybe the temptations come in the form of drinking, smoking, or doing drugs. Maybe friends pressure one another to participate in the “trick” part of trick-or-treating—egging or TP-ing houses, stealing candy, or destroying jack-o’-lanterns (these pranks often target bullied kids). Or maybe it’s other forms of bullying.
Help kids and teens prepare to face peer pressure and beat bullying by reviewing a few simple tips before they head out on Halloween:
- Plan ahead. If you are going to a party where you think there might be drugs or alcohol, plan what you will say to decline them. Same goes if you think friends might be into pulling mean pranks or bullying. Know what you’ll do or say to not be part of it and keep everyone safe.
- Practice saying “No.” This tip goes hand-in-hand with the previous one. Practice what you’ll say so that when the time comes, you’re ready. Try, “That’s mean. I’m not going to do that to her.” Or “I have to stay out of trouble or I’ll lose eligibility for the track team.” Or “No way, my parents will be waiting when I get home. I can’t have alcohol on my breath.” Or “I have a test in biology tomorrow and I want to be sharp.” Or carry a soda and say, “No thanks, I already have something to drink.”
- Listen to your gut. If a situation doesn’t feel right to you, it probably isn’t. No one knows you better than you do. Even if friends go along with what’s happening, if you have a bad feeling about the situation or action, then it’s not right for you.
- Bring backup. Hang with friends who won’t pressure you to do something you don’t agree with—and who will support you when you stand up to bullying or say no to bad situations.
- Stand up. If someone is bullying someone else, speak up. Bullying thrives with an audience that supports it or stays silent, but it usually ends when bystanders take a stand.
- Call an adult. If things get dangerous, call a parent or other adult right away.
Eric Braun writes and edits books for readers of all ages, specializing in academic and social-emotional topics. Books he has worked on have won awards and honors, including the Eugene M. Emme Astronautical Literature Award, a Foreword Book of the Year Gold Award, a Benjamin Franklin Award, and many others. A recent McKnight Artist Fellow and an Aspen Summer Words scholar for his fiction, he earned an M.F.A. in creative writing from Minnesota State University, Mankato. He lives in Minneapolis with his wife and two sons.
Eric is coauthor of The Survival Guide for Money Smarts: Earn, Save, Spend, Give.
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