Dear Barb—Bully for You

Dear Barb:

I am the mother of two girls, aged 12 and 13.  They have always done well in school and had a lot of friends until this past year.  They both became the target of bullies and now they are having all kinds of anxiety about going back to school in the Fall. 

My girls have not been physically assaulted, but they have been verbally attacked and humiliated in public.  I am unsure what caused this initially.  I know that when my younger girl began being bullied the older one defended her, so that probably resulted in the older one being bullied as well.  My younger girl does have some gender identity issues which may have contributed to her not fitting in and becoming a target of the bullies. 

I am not sure what I can do as a parent to help my children.  I have spoken to the principal and he assured me the school will put a stop to it, which they have not been able to do yet.  Can you offer suggestions on what I can to prevent this from happening again in the next school year?

Thank you, Christine.

Hello Christine:

Bullying is defined as an ongoing and deliberate misuse of power in relationships through repeated verbal, physical and/or social behaviour that intends to cause physical, social and/or psychological harm.  It can involve an individual or a group misusing their power, or perceived power, over one or more persons who feel unable to stop it from happening.  The causes of it are unimportant, as it simply shouldn’t happen regardless.

I am so sorry to hear your children are experiencing this terrible form of abuse.  The consequences of bullying can include shyness, stomach aches, panic attacks, nightmares just to name a few.  Bullying can also impact the individuals who are witnessing it, as they feel bad for the person being bullied, but fear for their own safety if they become involved.  If children are allowed to get away with bullying behaviour, they often will continue this behavior into adulthood and may include other forms of abusive conduct and aggression.  So, you’re right to be concerned.

There are programs available for victims of bullying.  A widely used prevention program is Olweus Bullying Prevention Program.  This program has been implemented in several schools and targets not only the child being bullied, but the bystanders.  The program shows the harm and long-term repercussions of being bullied, with the intention of developing empathy.  If this is not yet in your children’s school perhaps you can be proactive in having it implemented.  It has been proven the only way to reduce bullying is through awareness and education.  As parents we all need to do our part to prevent this type of behaviour for the sake of our children.  Thank you, Christine, for your most important letter.

Email your questions to Some submissions may be edited for length or to protect confidentiality; your real name and location will never be printed. This column is for entertainment only. The author is not a professional counsellor and this column is not intended to take the place of professional advice.
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