Q • I have 9-year-old twins. The girl is self-confident and gets along with everyone and if not, she doesn’t have a problem with her feelings. Her brother tries to please everyone. Lately he’s been complaining of headaches, upset stomach and not wanting to go to school. I think he’s being bullied, but he won’t talk about it. Are these signs that he’s a target of someone or possibly a group of bullies? How can I get him to open up about it, and how can I help him?
From a reader • Our 10-year-old daughter has been having the same problems. She is slightly overweight and is teased about it by her classmates. She’s never brought it up, but on a recent field trip I went on with the class, I noticed that some of the girls were looking at her and laughing. I immediately pointed it out to the teacher and asked how long had it been going on. She explained that it was just “teasing” and for me not to be worried. I was appalled at her response. This was certainly not a form of fun “teasing;” my daughter wasn’t laughing. It was hurtful and done in a mean spirit, which is certainly a form of bullying. I went in to talk to the principal, and she agreed with me. Since that time, I’ve popped into the classroom on several occasions, unannounced to the teacher, and have seen a big difference. My daughter actually looks forward to going to school again, and her headaches and stomachaches have disappeared. — J.K. in Chicago
From Jodie Lynn
Signs of being bullied can include headaches, upset stomach, not wanting to go to school, failing grades, torn clothes, loss of appetite, emotional overeating not wanting to discuss school at all or talk about their day and unexplained bruises or scratches.
What you can do as a parent:
• Check the school’s handbook on bullying. There should be a zero tolerance.
• Going on field trips and volunteering at school can provide a firsthand look and may answer some of your questions.
• Once the bullies have been identified, ask the teacher to keep a watchful eye on these specific kids.
• Ask about your son’s day at school with questions that he can answer in more than one sentence, like instead of asking how his day at school went, ask what he enjoyed most about it.
• Find out if the teacher assigns specific books to read and use for book reports pertaining to accepting others for who they are and why people need to be kind. If the teacher doesn’t have these types of books on the suggested reading list for students, come up with some titles to share. These types of books are extremely important for everyone.
Unfortunately, bullies will always be around. It’s just a fact of life.
Just remember, most bullies have been bullied themselves and may have low self-esteem. But if the teacher, and the school system in general, can make them feel better about themselves and increase their feelings of self-worth, there could be less problems.
CAN YOU HELP?
My kids love to help decorate the Christmas tree but it has always ended in arguing and breaking of an ornament. I take pride in our decorations and buy vintage ones. Is there something that they can make that’s not too difficult and be proud to add to our tree?
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Jodie Lynn is an award-winning parenting columnist, author of five books and mother to three children. She and her family live in Wildwood.