Monday saw the summer campers at the YMCA celebrating Christmas in July, but with a very special message.
In partnership with the Lincoln County Coalition Against Child Abuse and Child Advocacy Center, volunteers from First Federal Bank of Lincolnton and the United Way, the YMCA presented Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer to 60 campers, ages 5-12, in an effort to combat bullying.
Most people are familiar with the age-old story of Rudolph, the young buck that was born just a little bit different than everyone else. As he tried to fit in with his peers, he was taunted and ridiculed for having his signature red nose, but it was this difference that made him special by the end of the story. Campers watched the film and were then addressed by Lincoln County Sheriff’s Officers Lt. Tim Johnson and Detective Dann Renn and Lincolnton Police Officer Matt Painter and Resource Officer Jennifer Green.
Children were presented with bullying scenarios and were given tips to practice in the event that they themselves become victims of bullying. These tips included walking away with awareness, calm, respect and confidence; leaving in a powerful, positive way; setting a boundary; using your voice; protecting your feelings from name calling; speaking up for inclusion; being persistent in getting help and using physical self-defense as a last resort.
At the end of the day, campers made cupcakes shaped like Rudolph and were read a letter from the red-nosed holiday hero himself that reminded children that it will always get better.
“The moral is not difficult to detect,” the letter read. “Bullying is not cool, it is okay to be different, and differences makes us unique and strong. Yet people still need to hear the message that things can get better, but only if we all act to create change.”
Sherry Reinhardt, executive director of the Lincoln County Coalition against Child Abuse and Child Advocacy Center, emphasized not only the importance of recognizing that a child is being bullied, but also that a child could be bullying others.
“I think the word bullying often conjures up an image of a schoolyard scene with a big intimidating student towering over a small child,” Reinhardt said. “That is just one face of bullying. Another face of bullying is anything hurtful that is done intentionally to your child, for example, intentionally being excluded. Another face of bullying might be…that of your child. Knowing the facts and acting to change the situation is important.
“Kids bully for many reasons,” Reinhardt elaborated. “Some bully because they feel insecure. Picking on someone who seems emotionally or physically weaker provides a feeling of being more important, popular, or in control. In other cases, kids bully because they simply don’t know that it’s unacceptable to pick on kids who are different because of size, looks, race, or religion. Make sure you help your children recognize what being bullied is and what being a bully means. Try to understand the reasons behind your child’s behavior. In some cases, kids bully because they have trouble managing strong emotions like anger, frustration, or insecurity. In other cases, kids haven’t learned cooperative ways to work out conflicts and understand differences. Help your child to understand that bullying is as unacceptable as being bullied.”