My daughter Liv recently declined my invitation to miss school and hang out with me on my day off (I don’t normally advocate skipping school, but was desperate for some quality time before a ten day visit with her father). Once she explained that she wanted to be with me but didn’t want to mess up her perfect attendance record, I felt better.
Considering how she wanted to keep her record intact, I was surprised by her behavior a few weeks later. She starting telling me she was really tired and wanted to stay home. When that didn’t work, she started complaining of a bellyache and diarrhea. In a four day week coming off of a long vacation, I had to pick her up from the clinic two days in a row.
You’re probably asking, Why did you send her to school sick? Well, that’s the thing. She wasn’t acting sick. The minute she got home, she wanted to play with her new kitten and on the computer. This, and the fact that she displayed no other symptoms, made it seem like she was using the stomach thing to stay home/come home early. The problem was, she kept complaining. What if something really was wrong? I scheduled a doctor’s appointment.
Hectic as life can be, we sit down to a few family meals a week, even if that means taking advantage of ‘Kids Eat Free’ at whatever restaurant. Because our children talk. A certain girl in Liv’s class kept coming up in these conversations. Liv had issues with this girl earlier in the year. I began to suspect the bellyaches had less to do with possible illness than with a bully. Other parents confirmed my suspicions.
Once I’d taken the most important step: letting my child know we’ve got her back (she can tell us and other adults, we will help, it’s OK to tell a bully to stop, she doesn’t have to be afraid, etc.), here are the additional steps I took:
- Emailed the teacher and voiced my concerns about Liv’s bellyaches and gave specifics about her interactions with the other student ( pushed her down, took her school supplies and was mean to Liv’s friends)
- Asked for the teacher’s thoughts and observations
- Requested a meeting to discuss how we could partner together to find a positive solution to the problem
The teacher responded immediately. She let me know she was aware of and saddened by the ongoing situation. Here are the steps she took:
- Involved the principal and had him talk to Liv and the other girl
- Invited the school counselor to address the class with strategies for all concerned students on how to become a problem solver using various methods
- Contacted the other parents whose children were involved and had conversations with these students as well
- Assured me that the school strives to be a safe, happy, positive environment where students learn skills and strategies to be caring people and problem solvers
- Asked that I keep her posted if any other concerns arise
I’m glad to say things do seem to have reached a positive resolution. Just knowing the adults are aware and care seems to have made a difference for Liv. She’s still a 2nd grader in a kindergartner’s body, but she shot up when my husband told her he’d come up to school if necessary. It hasn’t been because she’s no longer such an easy target. And her doctor’s appointment got cancelled. For her, no more bullying means no more bellyaches.
Hurting people hurts others. As glad as I am for Liv, I’m sad for the little girl who feels the need to bully.