Son goes to new school, gets picked on
by Mary Follin and Erika Guerrero
THE PROBLEM: My 11 yo started going to a new school this week, and the other kids are giving him a hard time because he’s small. Or skinny. Or whatever. He’s trying to tough it out, but I hear him crying in bed at night. Nobody’s beating him up, they’re just making it clear in an immature way they don’t want to be friends with him. And he’s such a nice kid! We left a sweet neighborhood where the kids were all friends, so he’s doubly miserable, missing his old school. I need ideas!
MARY SAYS: While bullying unequivocally needs to be addressed, please make sure that’s what’s going on here. When a child joins an already-established social circle, sometimes the reception can feel more chilly than it actually is.
For example, kids calling each other ‘skinny’ or ‘small’ may be mean-spirited, or it might be a clumsy way for one kid to get another’s attention.
Start by playing detective. Find out what your son's teacher is observing. Talk with your son to get a better understanding of exactly how he's feeling. If your son is used to hanging with a throng of kids who were always happy to see him, facing a room full of strangers everyday might feel intimidating by contrast. For all you know, a slight change in perspective might resolve the situation seemingly overnight.
But do be careful not to discount how your son is feeling. You’re his mom, and you’ll know in your heart if the situation is unacceptable, especially after you’ve done your homework. Since it’s only been a week and nobody is physically harming your son, you have a little time to stand back, observe, and see if these kids don’t find some other way to entertain themselves.
For a child such as yours who has a history of making and keeping friends, a simple solution may be to get him into an afterschool activity as soon as possible. Or have him take a football or chess set to school and look for a single kid to play with.
You son’s concerns will most likely iron out soon, but until then, be vigilant; make sure the other kids’ exclusionary tactics don’t escalate into out-and-out mistreatment and/or abuse.
Being the new kid can be rough, but your son won’t be new for long. Once he’s got his own group of friends, he’ll have a fresh memory of what it feels like to be left out. And won’t you be so proud when he reaches out to the next ‘new kid’ to say: ‘Hey—wanna hang out?
Erika is away this week.
ASK MOM offers parents two perspectives on today’s child-rearing issues—one from a mom with grown children (Mary), the other from a mom raising a small child (Erika). If you’re looking for creative solutions, or your mom isn’t around to ask, drop in!
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ABOUT MARY FOLLIN
Mary is the author of TEACH YOUR CHILD TO READ and ETHYR, winner of the Moonbeam Children's Book Award and the Gertrude Warner Book Award. She is mom to two grown sons and enjoys sharing her more seasoned perspective with parents of younger children.
ABOUT Erika Guerrero
Erika Guerrero is a freelance hair and makeup artist, Erika K. Beauty, single-mama to one amazing boy, and author of She’s Not Shaken, a blog offering hope and encouragement to women in all walks of life.
ABOUT Suzanne Johnson
Suzanne Johnson, mother of five children and grandmother of eight, is an illustrator, book cover designer, and author of the Realms of Edenocht series.
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