7-9 YEARS OLD
Being teased about her weight can be traumatic for your tween, and you should take it seriously, says DR RICHARD C. WOOLFSON. He offers strategies to help your child deal with the bullying.
Help your tween deal with her mean friends who tease her about being overweight.
Bullies pick on children who seem solitary and isolated, so encourage your kid to spend time with classmates who don’t tease her.
A child who knows she’s plump will feel down, isolated, and rejected when her so-called friends crack fat jokes at her expense.
At this age, friendships are very important. She wants to be part of the in-crowd, to be accepted by her peers and to have lots of pals.
That’s why she will be very upset if some of the other girls are mean to her about her body size. Teasing about any aspect of physical appearance is a form of bullying and nobody likes to be the target for verbal abuse or insults.
Like all bullying, teasing is an abuse of power in a relationship in which one person (the child making fun of another) is perceived as strong, threatening and dangerous by the other (the victim).
It’s the perception of power that matters. The bully is construed as stronger, and it is this perceived imbalance of power that enables the dominant child to take command.
The victim feels even worse when she knows that she is overweight, wishes she was not so large, and yet feels powerless to lose weight.
All these factors combine to sap her social condence – repeated teasing has this negative effect – and she has an uphill struggle to beat the abuse in such a pessimistic frame of mind.
If your primary-schooler is in this situation, the rst step in helping turn things around is to let her see that you take her distress seriously.
Remember that it takes a great deal of courage for her to admit to you that some of her peers ridicule her body size – she may be worried that you’ll think she is making a big fuss about nothing or that you’ll blame her for allowing herself to become so large.
So, listen to her complaints, don’t make her feel silly, and let her know that you recognise the problems she faces. She will start to feel better just knowing you are there to support her.
Here are some other suggestions for teaching your young one to cope with emotional bullies: Walk away
Persuade her to do this whenever the mean girls appear to move in her direction. This is not an act of weakness – in fact, it is sensible.
When she does move out of the line of verbal re, she should do this slowly, without running. Ignore the bully
Encourage her to show as little reaction as possible to the other girls’ nasty remarks. Teasing often stops when the victim displays indifference to the taunts against her. Ignoring verbal abuse is difcult, but it can be done successfully.
Stick with friends Encourageas much time your as kid possibleto spendin the company of other children who don’t make fun of her, especially during recess in the school playground or outdoors after school. Bullies pick on children who seem solitary and isolated. Show positive body language Teach her this so that she looks assertive and condent. For instance, she should walk with her shoulders held back, her back upright and her eyes looking directly in front of her, not towards the ground. Involve adults if necessary If teasing occurs in school, talk to your her teachers, but insist they act discreetly without specically mentioning her name. Or if you already know the bully’s parents well, you could consider having a condential chat with them.
Take control Your tween might want your help in reducing her weight. If so, encourage her to regularly exercise and advise her about healthy eating. But at the same time, make it clear that your love for her is not conditional on her body size.