The following first appeared on Annie Fox’s blog and she has graciously allowed us to share it. We are so thrilled that she joined us at our 19th National Forum on Character Education this year! Thanks, Annie!

So, summer’s winding down. I broke my arm, but at least I was enjoying a bike ride when it happened. Hopefully you didn’t have that kind of break. Instead, I hope you and your kids shared some quality, unplugged time and reconnected, as a family.

If school hasn’t already resumed in your community, it will soon. On the plus side, that means your children start a new chapter with new opportunities to learn and grow, academically, creatively and socially. A positive attitude from you goes a long way in easing any of the kids’ nervousness or anxiety about the new school year.

Unfortunately, for many kids, back-to-school also means heading back into the same sea of social garbage from whence they escaped in June. And thinking about all of that is stressful, as you can see from this email from an 11-year old who is worried about what’s in store for her:

I’m going into 7th grade and there are these girls in my grade that think they are better than everyone. All last year, they judged me because I like this one boy that likes me back. I think they are just jealous but they made up this rumor telling people that I am jealous of them! I’m just average. But they think that school is for getting boyfriends and being rich! (They each have like 7 boys now!!) School is starting next week. Please HELP ME!!
—Alone and Scared

Dear Alone and Scared,

Sometimes the people around us are not very nice. You don’t need me to tell you that it’s hard to relax and enjoy yourself when people are judging you. These girls may believe that talking about you and giving you a hard time, is “no big deal” or that somehow you deserve to be treated this way. But they’re so wrong. Cruel’s not cool. What they’re doing is hurtful and not OK. Maybe if someone told them to “Stop the hating” they’d wake up and change their behavior. Or maybe not.

You signed your letter “Alone and Scared.” I get that you’re scared, but you’re not alone. There are adults who care about you. And other kids too. If this situation starts up again, let your parents know what’s going on. They can help turn this around. Talk to a teacher or have your parents call the school and set up a meeting with these girls and their parents.

I know this sounds like a bold move, and it is! But I also know that you have what it takes to stand up for yourself. If you stay silent and don’t get adults (at home and at school) involved now, chances are pretty good that this situation is going to escalate throughout 7th grade and beyond. (That means things are going to get worse.) On the other hand, but if you push through your fear, and be brave enough to get the help you need, you can help yourself and any other kids who’ve been targeted. You can also help to change your whole school!

Go for it and have a great school year!