Solo Mom Rebecca Melton speaks out about bullying
Rebecca Melton is a Solo Mom living in Portland, Oregon. Raising both two- and four-legged children, teaching, keeping up on her studio, and running the household, Melton understands how lucky she is to be a working artist.
Q: How did you find out that your child was being bullied?
A: I found out my son was being bullied through the things his classmates were saying and through a terrible experience he had at school.
Q: How old was your child when the bullying started?
A: He was in first grade and six years old when I found out the seriousness of the situation.
Q: Did this impact the way you chose to be involved?
A: I was already an involved parent at the school, but I had no idea that the level of bullying went from the students, even up to the adults. I did get very involved in fighting the situation. I went as high up in the administration as I could to resolve the issues my son had to face.
Q: What measures did you take to stop and prevent further bullying?
A: I removed my son from the environment (school) and homeschooled him for the remainder of his first-grade year. I had to threaten the school district with a lawsuit and going to the media if they didn’t transfer my son to a better school.
Q: Did the bullying cease?
A: Yes, but only because I removed my son from the school he was in.
Q: What suggestions would you give other Solo Moms who are facing a similar situation with their child?
A: There’s so much to say . . .
- Familiarize yourself with the signs of anxiety in children, such as frequent stomachaches and an increasing need to stay away from places your child would normally go. Examples would be school or a friend’s house.
- Make sure you never tell your child that what he or she is feeling is nothing to worry about.
- Without asking direct questions, find ways to talk with your child that allow your child to tell you what he or she is going through.
- If you have any doubts about your child’s safety, listen to your gut.
- Tell your child you believe and you will stand up for him or her.
- Don’t be afraid to fight the big fight if you have to.
- You are the only person who can stand up for your child.
- It’s your job to advocate for your child, and it can be really hard, difficult, and trying.
- Don’t stop being the squeaky wheel. Don’t give up.
- Remember to be kind, just, and honest while you’re going through it all.
- Don’t freak out because no one will take you seriously. That doesn’t mean you can’t get angry; just be very clear about how you show your anger. Be calm, and let them know you mean business.
- Most of the time, bullying can be resolved.
- Often, the other child’s (if it’s a child) problems are deeper and far more disturbing than what we could imagine.
- Have compassion for the kids.
Q: How does your parenting style as a Solo Mom differ from other two-parent families you know? Did this change how you dealt with the bullying?
A: I think any parent would fight for the rights and safety of their child regardless of their parenting situation. The difference may come in the times when you need to talk to someone about what’s happening. I talked to my closest friends instead of a spouse. It taught me that my community was larger and more caring than I thought. They were supportive and helpful and loving. It was a blessing.
Q: Talking to your child about bullying is important. What did you teach your child before and after this incident?
A: I taught him that he has a right to be safe. He can tell me anything, and I will always help him. Always stand up to bullies, but never bully someone else. He and his friends should be kind to each other and communicate among themselves and trusted adults.
Q: How did you help him to maintain his self-esteem while the bullying persisted, and then afterward?
A: It was very difficult because of the level of bullying we faced and because it wasn’t just children who bullied my son. Adults at the school also bullied my child. It has taken a long time for my son to feel good about himself. He feels safe knowing I will support him and protect him.
I’ve gotten him into a great school where bullying is actively addressed. There is a fraction of the issues that he faced at the former school. I am involved closely with the adults at his school, and we actively provide a healthy environment for my son (and all the children enrolled). I grow as a parent, and let him see that while surrounding ourselves with kind, decent, loving, and compassionate people so he benefits from a healthy community. As well, he goes to therapy by himself and with me, which is really good for him. I praise him for all the good, rather than constantly point out the things that need changing.
Q: Were you ever bullied as a child? Does this have an impact on you making choices as a Solo Mom?
A: I was bullied an awful lot because I was small. I was also bullied at home by my natural mother. And sadly, I did bully a few other classmates at various stages in my school life. It wasn’t fair, and thankfully it wasn’t a constant, but I could be a jerk when I wanted to. As I became safer and more healthy, the need to lash out faded. I make sure my son knows that bullies are usually bullied and very unhappy people. I teach him to have compassion but to not take their bullying by walking away, telling an adult, and not engaging.
Q: What would you do differently if you encountered the same situation again?
A: I probably would [go] to the media and [sue] the school district.
Q: Do you have any advice for other Solo Moms who are facing their child’s bullying by students or other adults?
A: The most important thing we can do for our children is behave the way we would want them to emulate, provide a safe environment for them, and always show our children we are their biggest supporters and advocates. We will always make things happen for them even if it makes our lives harder. My son knows he is loved, is safe, and can tell me anything, and I will make sure he never has to experience what he did (bullying) again. He knows that we are surrounded by love, and because of that, he will grow up healthy and strong.
Q: How do you get through trying times, such as the bullying episode, as a Solo Mom?
A: I’m a Solo Mom. There is no partner, ex-boyfriend, or ex-husband. It’s just me, and, in many ways, that’s a blessing. There are times when I feel like I’m so alone, and I struggle. But a simple call to a close friend reminds me that my family is much larger than I think it is.
Q: How does being a Solo Mom influence your son?
A: I am strong, creative, and unyielding in my ability to make sure my family is successful. What we may lack in financial stability, we more than make up for in the quality of our lives and our friendships. I know that this will influence my son far more profoundly than the things he has or wants because what makes us both the happiest is our time with friends and family. As a parent, single or not, this is the most valuable thing we can give our children—love.
Rebecca Cherry is an accomplished musician, writer, and creative seeker. She is enjoying her new role as a Solo Mom to her baby girl. You can follow her on Twitter at @CherryRebecca and Facebook at Rebecca Cherry.
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