Bullying is a common experience for many kids, both boys and girls.  And, fairly or not, girls often get the blame.

It often seems the only time most of us worry about bullying is when it happens to one of our kids – or when something goes deeply wrong with someone else’s kid, as happened recently in South Hadley, MA, where 15-year-old Phoebe Prince hanged herself.

According to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, surveys indicate that as many as half of all children are bullied at some time during their school years, and at least 10% are bullied on a regular basis.  The Junior Leaguestake this problem seriously.  In fact, supporting the welfare of our children has been a central focus across our 109-year-history.

So what can we do about it?

Well, May is Teen Self-Esteem Month, so here are a few ideas from the many programs individual Leagues have to support self-esteem among girls.

Because a strong link between mothers and daughters is one of the best safeguards against bullying, the Junior League of Ann Arbor is working with the University of Michigan Center for the Child and the Family (UCCF) to provide girls in grades 4-7 and their mothers resources to spot and challenge relational aggression.  The program – Strong Moms, Strong Girls – was developed to proactively address aggressive behaviors like gossiping, lying and exclusion that are intended to cause harm to others by damaging their social status, relationships and self esteem.  Trained by the UCCF, League volunteers facilitate interactive workshops designed to model healthy ways to handle conflict, encourage positive relationships between girls and women and discuss media portrayals of girls and women.  In addition to the daughter-mother workshops, special presentations on girls’ relational aggression are also available to educators and community groups.

Hoping to build upon the Junior League of Ann Arbor’s success with Strong Moms, Strong Girls, the Junior League of the Lehigh Valley is adopting the program for their community.

Because bullying so often starts between the critical ages of 9 to 12, when girls are entering adolescence, the Junior League of Boise‘s Especially Me program targets pre-teen girls through a serious of three classes. The first class on self image and self esteem teaches girls about the role society and the media have on presentations of women’s images, how that can influence a person’s sense of self and the importance of celebrating one’s uniqueness.  The second class focuses on helping girls understand the changes their bodies are and will undergo with puberty and the importance of good health, both physically and mentally.  In the final class, girls learn how to make good decisions and stick to them, particularly when confronted by peer pressure.  Girls also learn how to assert themselves in a healthy and positive way that does not hurt others.  Operating in a discussion and activity format without parents or guardians, girls learn to work openly and honestly with each other and with League facilitators.

Because the middle school experience can often provide the worst environment for bullying, the Junior League of Pasadena‘s BodyWise Conference helps middle school girls establish a foundation of healthy habits and positive body image that will last a lifetime.  Through a series of interactive workshops, girls not only learn about the importance of good self-esteem and making positive choices but are given the tools to do it.  The workshops teach them how to prepare healthy meals, how to get fit, and exercises that model how to respond to negative behaviors such as gossip and bullying.  Parent/guardian workshops teach participating adults how to model positive behaviors that help girls build a positive sense of self, the issues facing girls today and how to identify signs of trouble in their lives.  Joint seminars with parent and guardians teach ways to keep lines of communication open and help both girls and adults think about their career and community engagement.

Because girls in high school are making important decisions that will affect their entire lives, the Junior League of Rochester created GIRLSrock! Targeting girls in grades 7-12, the program focuses on self-esteem, health, leadership and mentoring.  Health workshops focus on the importance of good overall physical health on self-esteem by teaching them about their bodies, fitness and even how to make their own healthy snacks and meals.  Career workshops focus on skills like proper interview etiquette and the importance of dressing for success.  Personal finance workshops focus on the importance of budgeting and an understanding of how credit works.  Personal safety workshops allow girls to learn about self defense as well as the internet and cyber bullying.