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Dr. Irene S. Levine Headshot

Helping a 10-year-old deal with bullies

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QUESTION

Dear Irene,

My 10-year-old daughter has been having a lot of trouble with friends recently. Some of the problems are caused by boy drama, and the "he said, she said" game. Kids have been spreading rumors about her, and I just don't know what to do. I have tried to get involved by giving suggestions on how to deal with the rumors. I have tried talking to other moms about their children's behavior, but all I did was make it worse.

I am at the point where I am considering getting permission from her principal to change schools within the district. I really don't want to do this. These kids have all grown up together, and I recognize that they are going to grow apart. I just don't understand the cruelty.

Signed,
Michelle

ANSWER

Dear Michelle,

These are years when young girls' friendships can be fickle and kids can be hard on one another. That said, if these rumors are persistent, your daughter is being bullied. This has to be painful for both you and her and needs to be addressed.

I'm glad that your daughter has confided in you and told you about these problems. This isn't a situation that can be ignored or pushed under the rug. If your prior attempts to support your daughter haven't been successful, the problem probably requires intervention from her school. Contact your daughter's teacher or the school principal so they know about the bullying, and can develop a strategy for addressing it.

Is your daughter feeling the effects of these rumors? Is she depressed? Anxious? Has there been a decline in her school performance? Because you are concerned, it could be useful to have her see a counselor outside of school, who is experienced with children her age who are being bullied. This person could help your daughter develop and rehearse ideas about what she should say and how she should act at school with these kids.

Changing schools can be very uprooting both academically and socially. So I would hold that out as a last resort. Hopefully, the school will be able to work things out and bring this situation to an end. In the meantime, it could be helpful to create opportunities for your daughter to socialize outside of school, perhaps by taking a music or sports class, until things simmer down.

Here are some useful additional tips from the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) aimed at parents whose children are being bullied and some additional information about bullying that may be worth reading.

My best,
Irene

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