So I know up until this point, I've been writing in order of my experiences as they've happened in my years of working in mental health thus far. However, I just got finished seeing a patient today who really broke my heart and I wanted to share. I also wanted to put out the message over and over again with this post to PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE! TEACH YOUR CHILDREN TO BE KIND.
I have a sweet seven year old girl who I have been seeing for a short time. Today she came into my office with a smile on her face, but I could tell it was forced. When I asked her how she had been feeling she instantly answered with "fine," but I could tell something else was going on.
After some talking, she was able to disclose to me that she was being bullied at school for her weight.
This was causing her severe anxiety and she was really struggling to make it to school without crying. She stated that the kids on the bus, mostly older kids, were calling her names and telling her how ugly she was. She said that the bus driver was even laughing. Her mom had been to the school to get to the bottom of the bullying with no changes yet.
This sweet girl was born with a birth defect resulting in significant feeding challenges and multiple hospital stays. Because of this, she was also on steroid medication frequently in order to be able to function. Steroids cause weight gain and this was the culprit behind her recent spike in weight.
She understood this. Her mom understood this. I understood this. But a lot of people don't.
It'd be easy to look at her and say she needs to change her diet or that her mom needs to do something different, but the truth of the matter is that they are doing everything right! She is physically much healthier than she has been in years and the fact that people are bullying her for her weight it heartbreaking because it is not her fault. It's the side effects of the steroids that are keeping her alive!
Her mother was in tears, telling me that they have been going to the YMCA most days to swim and exercise, have been eating lots of salads and healthier foods, and doing everything they could be to help keep the weight down; but in spite of their best efforts, it wasn't that easy with the constant medication on board.
"People don't like me because I look like this," she told me as she wiped her tears and all I could do was cry right along with her.
Specializing in pediatrics, I see so many patients who deal with being bullied on a daily basis. School is already hard enough. Life is already hard enough. Struggling with a medical condition is already hard enough. Struggling with mental illness is already hard enough. There is no reason that a child should have to be scared to go to school because other kids are being mean to them!
No one has any idea what goes on at home for some of these children. No one has any idea what these children are going through with their physical or mental health.
Teaching your children to be kind is hard; I get it. But children also mimic what they see. So maybe as a parent, at least start there. Be kind. Say kind words. Demonstrate patience, love, and acceptance.
You wouldn't want it to be your kid on the other end of the situation. No one wants to see their child hurting.
After a long session with this patient on ways to build up self-confidence and self-love, all I wanted to do was go home and hug my own kids. I only hope that they have enough confidence in themselves and love themselves enough to stand up to a bully, whether that be someone bullying them or bullying someone else.
Please, teach your children to be kind.
And if that is really hard for you to do, you need to ask yourself why and fix it!