Bullying is defined as aggressive or unwanted behavior. Most school-aged children find themselves on one end of a bullying relationship at some point in their lives. Bullying can take many forms. Abuse can be physical or verbal. It can take place in person or online. It often takes the form of social isolation.
Beyond Differences is a teen-led grassroots organization that was formed in Marin County, CA, specifically to combat social isolation, which is often a precursor to more aggressive bullying behaviors. The group leads powerful peer assemblies in middle and high schools. I’ve had the privilege of seeing the very impactful work that the Beyond Differences leadership accomplishes. Social acceptance can make the difference between a pleasant school experience and a torturous one. Here’s one message on the Beyond Differences site from parent Sheri Mowbray:
Their message of inclusion and care helped bring my daughter out of a serious depression and allowed her not only to feel less socially isolated, but empowered her to want to take a leadership role to help others in the same circumstances.
A cornerstone of Beyond Differences’ work is the No One Eats Alone program, which encourages students to include others who might be experiencing social isolation. The educational and psychological benefits of the program go far beyond the week in which it typically occurs. Schools report more compassion and inclusiveness among students year-round. Using tool kits on the Beyond Differences web site, the program can be replicated anywhere in the world.
Here are tips for parents with adolescents who suffer from social isolation from Amy Wilner, PsyD.
You can take a stand against bullying by learning more about Beyond Differences and similar groups. Please join me in taking this pledge from Take Part to add your name to the growing list of people who pledge to end bullying and social isolation.