The role of the sibling is so powerful. A caring sibling can make all the difference and is one of the roles that doesn't get enough attention. Siblings are often better positioned to understand the subtleties of bullying. If they are compassionate, they can be confidantes and allies. Maybe they aren't on the scene when bullying happens, but they may be that one person that makes the target feel ok about themselves.
By now, most people are aware of the story of the Australian boy slamming another boy to the ground. There's a lot of talk about who's the villain and who's the victim but it sounds like neither one of them was having a good time of it at school. After watching an Australian talk show that interviewed both boys, I was really struck with one of the side stories. Casey Heynes, the bigger bullied boy who threw his much lighter bully to the ground, talked about how bad the bullying had been affecting him, including contemplating suicide. When the interviewer asked him what saved him, he said "my sister."
Unfortunately, bullying prevention can't prevent all bullying but if a child has anyone in their life that makes them feel safe and important, then the bullying will have less of an impact.
Sibling issues are hard but it's also part of early prevention. If we compliment our children when they're good to each other, perhaps they will continue to value that role.
In a recent post about PACER, it was mentioned that the organization was invited to the White House Summit on Bullying Prevention. One of the PACER parent advocates, Lynn Miland, was asked to attend with her two girls. Kelly is 19 and on the autism spectrum and was bullied a lot in school. Her 16-year old sister, Maggie, is a junior in high school and is obviously an advocate. They both deserved to be invited to the WH. It represented the power of family.
This is what they had to say about the summit:
Kelly: It was so amazing you had to be there to believe it!! The President wants to prevent bullying in any way, shape or form. It will definitely make a big difference in this world. If you want to make a difference, then you need to hear about what people like me have gone through. We don't want any more kids to take their lives because of bullying.
Maggie: People think that bullying is a normal part of growing up, however I know that isn't true. I am thankful that President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama agree. I am confident that we have only seen the beginning of the fight to end bullying and the rest will come as more people become aware and involved.
Siblings can also watch each other's backs online. If we teach our children to look out for each other, it's amazing what they can accomplish-- and we can't. Older responsible siblings may have a bigger impact on teaching the younger ones the rules of the online road -- and we may never know about it. Were you ever the brother or sister who had to warn a sib about drinking? Were you ever the sibling that stopped a rumor about your brother or sister...or told them to stay away from a certain crowd...or were you ever a sibling that benefitted from a kind word when you were feeling like a loser?
Things haven't changed all that much. Blood is still thicker than water. A good sibling can be a lifesaver.