Long before Meredith Vieira became one of America’s favorite television personalities, she was a mother of three children, struggling with the same concerns as any parent.
“I always tried to communicate openly with my children, reinforcing to them constantly how wonderful they are, how they needed to have faith in themselves, and realize how great and wonderful they are,” she says.
While her children are now adults, Vieira realizes that, with the increase of outside influences, communication is much more difficult for parents. She hopes to address many of the issues facing today’s parents, including various education topics, on her new daytime talk show. The Meredith Vieira Show is billed as an hour when viewers “can feel like they’ve come into my house every day…,” she says. “Those kinds of issues are issues that we care about.”
One issue on the top of her agenda is bullying. She is so passionate about the subject that she joined the Board of Directors of STOMP Out Bullying, leading national anti-bullying and cyberbullying organization, and supports other anti-bullying efforts such as National PTA’s Connect for Respect.
She talked with Our Children about the issue of bullying, what parents can do, and how a bullying incident as a kid changed her life.
Our Children: Why did you get involved with STOMP Out Bullying?
Meredith Vieira: Well, we had done a series of stories about kids being bullied and usually ending in disaster. And I thought that it was important to be out there and say that I support what they’re all about. I think it’s important. It’s not a minor issue in terms of the health of our children. I think that the problem is that people don’t talk about it. So, I felt that organization deserved to be highlighted. And I’m a parent. So, it’s seeing it on both ends. Seeing it as a reporter, sitting with a parent who has lost a child, or talking with school administrators about what was going on in their schools. And then the other side of me, the mother, imagined my own children in that situation—feeling the same as that mother or father that was going through.
Our Children: What can be done about bullying?
Meredith Vieira: I don’t really have the answer to what will stop it. And I feel like the internet is such a dangerous place now because it allows for so much more bullying. You can just spread the word and destroy someone. So when you think about these kids that are ridiculed in school or told, ‘Oh, just go kill yourself,’ or ‘You’re ugly,’ or ‘Nobody likes you,’ and they get that again, and again, and again, and it spreads like wildfire because of access to the internet. I don’t know. It’s scary stuff.
Our Children: The causes of bullying range from insensitivity to homophobia to racism. How do you think we can get a handle on the causes, the reasons for bullying?
Meredith Vieira: Well, God, if I had that answer. It’s so ingrained. I’ve seen children taught hate. I’ll never forget being in Northern Ireland, this goes back years. And little, little kids, Protestant kids, saying that they hate Catholics, Catholics saying that they hate Protestants. And I don’t even think they knew what they were saying, but they had been taught since the time that they were toddlers to hate. And they knew. And I think that a lot of the solution may lie in getting to your kids early because you can also teach tolerance and acceptance. And I think that that’s something that we all should do.
Our Children: You have three adult children. Did they ever have any issues with bullying and school?
Meredith Vieira: No, they didn’t. They didn’t. And I don’t know if they were lucky. They all went to the same school and I think that there was a lot of awareness there. So, if it did happen, it was probably very rare. And we told our kids from the time they were little that if they ever felt that they were being bullied that they had to come tell us immediately and we would deal with it. And I really do think that they would have.
Our Children: What advice would you give parents if their kids are being bullied?
Meredith Vieira: I think it’s important, if you have a PTA, I think that’s a great place to go. Don’t be afraid to advocate for your child because they often can’t, and so you have to.