Author Jonathan McKee remembers contemplating suicide as a teenager. He was standing on the edge of a cliff, staring all the way to the bottom. One step, and all of his pain would be over.
The pain was caused by incessant bullying. The pinnacle was in eighth grade when a group of classmates started what they called the “Kill John Club.” They made T-shirts with the letters KJC and a caricature of John’s face, complete with enormous buck teeth – a feature braces had fixed, but classmates continued to torment him over – and a gun scope target over his face. As Jonathan walked through the hallways, other students would chant “KJC.” Jonathan told a teacher about the torment he was enduring, but his pleas for help were ignored.
That’s why, standing on the edge of the cliff that day, Jonathan couldn’t find much reason not to jump … except that he had climbed to the top with a church friend, who encouraged him to believe that he could make it through school each day with the loving support of his Christian family.
In school, value was based on looks, athleticism, talent, or popularity. Jonathan’s Christian family affirmed him for who he was in Christ. God loved him simply for who he was.
There are great schools, great teachers, and great administrators, but there is also a bullying problem that flies under the radar in many schools. Bullying is as prevalent today as it ever was, maybe more so.
Nearly 71 percent of young people say they have witnessed bullying in their schools. A child who is bullied is twice as likely to attempt suicide. If they’re cyberbullied, they’re three times as likely to commit suicide. Bullying can be verbal, physical, social, and digital. It’s ugly and disturbingly common.
If you’re a parent, I encourage you to join us for our Focus on the Family Broadcast “Combating Bullies in Your Child’s Life.” It’ll equip you with the tools you need to identify bullying and to help your child if they’re being bullied. It’ll also help you know what to do if you discover your child is the bully.
We also discuss warning signs of bullying. On their own, any of these signs may be normal, but when several start to appear, you want to look deeper into your child’s world:
- Hearing your children verbalize insecurities
- Changes in friends
- Avoiding school
- Declining grades
- Increased anxiety and depression
- Changes in eating habits
- Subtle confessions or offhand comments that indicate they’re hurting
I encourage every parent to join us for our conversation with Jonathan McKee. He’s a survivor of bullying, with over 20 years of experience in youth ministry, and he speaks to parents, leaders, and teens worldwide.
I’d also like to extend an invitation for you to become a special partner with us through our monthly “Friends of Focus on the Family” program. When you do, I’ll send you a free copy of Jonathan’s book The Bullying Breakthrough: Real Help for Parents and Teachers of the Bullied, Bystanders and Bullies as a way of saying thank you for touching others with the love of Christ. It’s a terrific resource for parents and educators that offers great advice for dealing with bullies and managing difficult situations as a parent of a child who is bullied.
To make your pledge, or for more information, visit our website or call 1-800-A-FAMILY (232-6459).