BULLYING: more help for parents


Years ago, I got pulled into a new friend group of dudes. It was the best! I was sort of new to town and was lonely. I loved being included. My awful feelings drifted away.

I was also pretty new to Facebook, and one day I saw pictures of all the dudes with their spouses and kids at a party the night before. We obviously hadn’t been invited. I was hurt. It stung.

After wallowing for a little while, I came up with stories of what could have happened. Maybe I was accidentally left off the guest list. Maybe it was a spontaneous event. Maybe they figured I was working (which I was.) Maybe it was due to all their kids going to the same school and mine didn’t. Maybe it was due to my kid being very sick all the time, and they didn’t want to bother us. Maybe it was due to them all living in the same neighborhood. Or maybe they really didn’t like me as much as I thought. Bottom line, I figured it was something personal.

Not long after there was another event and we were invited. I no longer felt excluded. The bad feelings drifted away. All was ok.

My question is, what would it be like if it were your kid? His or her friend group had an event, and they saw pictures on Instagram. Making it worse is that the post mentioned your kid and how great it was that he wasn’t there, because he isn’t fun. Or she is fat. Or he doesn’t have a girlfriend, and the rest of them do. It doesn’t matter; you kid is devastated.

And then maybe the next day, the BULLYING continues. Kids make fun of him directly or behind her back. They tell her how much better the party was because she wasn’t there.

The BULLYING doesn’t stop. It just doesn’t stop. It gets momentum, and your kid is devastated. She’s embarrassed and ashamed and keeps her mouth shut. He assumes he has no friends. He isolates…

For a variety of reasons, your kid doesn’t let you into how he’s feeling. You get a sense that everything isn’t ok, but when you ask she tells you everything is fine.

When people ask me what are the most difficult issues I help kids with, I tell them eating disorders and bullying. Eating disorders just aren’t my thing. Fortunately, I know experts and send people their way. Bullying is just hard. F’ing hard.

Sometimes kids give their parents clues. Maybe his grades plummet. Maybe she doesn’t sleep much or sleeps too much. Maybe he spends way more time in his room than usual. Maybe you notice cuts on her wrist. Maybe she cries all the time. Maybe the painkillers from your serious back injury disappear. If you pick-up these clues take action. Set an appointment with his primary care doctor or maybe a psychiatrist. Or call a therapist. Reach out. Take action.

Problem is, sometimes parents don’t notice this stuff and their kids go to really serious places. He starts thinking about suicide. Maybe she starts reading up on ways to kill herself. Maybe he has a suicide attempt and survives. Maybe she’s successful.

I realize I’m painting a very scary picture. But bullying is so, so out of control that it feels appropriate. I realize parents don’t want to hover, but you need to keep tabs on your kid. You need to address concerns when you notice. You need to do all that you can to let your kids know that they can talk to you about anything, no matter how bad it might be. Read-up on how parents can help their kids with bullying. Stay aware.

I’m not sure why this is such a hot topic for me today. It just is. I have lots more to say about bullying, particularly with why schools do or don’t handle it appropriately.  I could also talk about why kids bully.  But I’ll save those for another day…

Like I said, bullying is the most difficult issue I deal with. It’s rough, but I’m doing my best to help. You need to do the same.

Until next time…


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