Some obese children have to deal with more than just losing their excess weight. They are also teased at school, often unmercifully, because of their obesity. Over time, this taunting can take an emotional toll on any youngster, particularly as they lose friends and self-esteem. Some of these children eventually dread going to school at all. In fact, research shows that children who are bullied are more likely to skip going to class; some even drop out of school altogether.
In many cases, this taunting escalates with time. As it intensifies, these children may become terrified, even fearing for their physical safety. For parents, it can be heartbreaking to watch.
How Parents and Children Should Respond to This Type of Bullying
Tell an adult.
Stay in a group.
As much as she possibly can, she should not react to the taunting. If the school bully sees her becoming anxious or even start to cry, the teasing is likely to get worse. Encourage your child to maintain her composure, turn around, and walk away.
If the bullying continues, your child can, if she feels safe, try being assertive and stand up to her tormenter. In some cases, a firm statement will neutralize the confrontation—something like “Stop bugging me!” The bully might react by turning her attention to an “easier prey” who won’t fight back and appears more vulnerable to verbal attacks.
Let your child’s teacher know about the harassment being directed at your youngster. The teacher may be able to intervene to put an end to it. If the teasing continues, ask the school principal or your child’s school counselor to get involved. Your youngster may be embarrassed to have you talk to the principal, but you can’t afford to let her be mistreated any further. In fact, many schools now have anti-bullying policies. It is generally better to let the teacher and principal handle the situation, rather than contacting the bully or the bully’s parents yourself.
Convince your child to try bonding more closely with the friends that she does have at school. If she hangs out with a group on the playground
or in the lunch room, she is less likely to be singled out for mistreatment.
Add an activity outside of school that your overweight child can participate in, during which she can develop a new peer group that may be less inclined to tease. Sign her up for a karate class
or the Boy or Girl Scouts.
Spend time with your child and treat her as an important person. Help maintain your child’s self-esteem by demonstrating respect and acceptance and conveying the message, “I believe in you.”
When the Bullying Happens at Home
When you’re evaluating the teasing to which your overweight child is subjected, don’t overlook what may be going on in your own home. Sadly, some obese youngsters are teased by their own siblings. Even some parents direct negative comments at their overweight youngster, often with statements like, “I’m telling you what to do—why aren’t you doing it?” If this is happening in your home, you need to put a stop to it. Have a family discussion about it, and set some sensible ground rules for relating to one another in a more positive way.