Kindness begins with me.”

In what ways can we teach our children to reach out to others when they might feel isolated themselves?  Do you know about The Buddy Bench? It was first started by Christian Bucks in 2013, who was preparing to move across the ocean to a new school in Germany, but nervous he’d get left out. That’s not an anomaly, even when kids are on home turf.

Did you know that 80% of kids interviewed in a study admitted to feeling alienated at some point in their school journey?  Christian was nervous about being “the new kid on the block,” especially at recess.  He knew what it was like to be lonely, so he re-framed his fear and created a safe space for kids to sit — a place for other children to have the opportunity to ask each other to join in the fun on the playground.  It’s called The Buddy Bench, and it’s become a sensation and tradition across the country, with over 2,000 benches now in schools preventing loneliness and fostering new friendships.

As a certified coach in Social & Emotional Intelligence, I couldn’t be more proud of this kiddo. On this 18th Anniversary of Columbine, I honestly can’t imagine a better way to prevent future tragedies. It’s difficult to revisit that awful event in our nation’s history, but violence in schools happens much too often.  The reasons are complicated and multifaceted,  this week, I stumbled on some themes of warning signs for kids in danger of committing future violence, provided by the APA.  I’d like to share them again here:

* early childhood abuse of neglect

* having been a victim of bullying

* withdrawal from friends and activities

* regularly feeling rejected and/or alone

* feeling constantly disrespected

Do you see how having a Buddy Bench can improve school climate (What if we had a Buddy Bench in board rooms)? Christian, who was initially nervous about going to school overseas is now realizing that he can make a difference because “kindness is contagious.”  He reflects, “Amazing things happen when you share your hopes and dreams, and you may end up helping more people than you can ever imagine.”

By being a buddy to the lonely or the lost, kindness can begin with each of us.  Sometimes we just need to build a bridge over troubled water — or provide a bench in our own back yard.

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