The financially struggling single mother of fraternal twins recently requested her 8-year-olds to write down a listing of stuff they’d like from Santa.
Karen Suffern, who works part-time as an administrative assistant for a home health care company, wished to start budgeting for Christmas. She understood her twins, who only began third grade, were at the age where they’d start asking for electronics as well as other pricey gifts.
Reading the letter was rough for Suffern. “I try to build up my daughter’s self-esteem and tell her she is beautiful, but people say hurtful things to me, because I also have a weight problem, and that hurts me,” she said. “I can’t imagine what she goes through.”
She had a vague thought that Amber was teased on the bus, but she did not understand the extent of the intimidation. Amber, who has attention-deficit (hyperactivity) disorder and other mental and mood disorders, never mentioned the ribbing.
Amber weighs 140 pounds, nearly double the size of her brother, and is an emotional eater.
The twins returned to school three weeks ago at Rocky Mount Preparatory in North Carolina. It is the very first time Amber and Ryan happen to be in the exact same group.
“Every day when she goes to school, she says, ‘Mommy, can I just stay at home?’ and she only doesn’t want to go.’ And now every time that I send her to school, I feel like I ‘m not shielding her and I’m letting her down,” Suffern said.
After reading her son’s letter within the weekend, Suffern shared it online with friends, including Tony Posnanski’s Facebook page, where he features narratives of weight loss inspiration and life guidance.
Posnanski says as it reminded him of his childhood, he was moved by the letter of Ryan. “When I had been a kid, I had been bullied for a bit” because of his weight, he described. Posnanski posted the story where it immediately garnered tens of thousands of page views.
“I wanted to do something to get (the story) out,” Posnanki said, adding that bullying is a serious problem that deserves attention.
A study released in the journal Pediatrics says there’s an association between being bullied meaning children who are bullied run the risk of higher mental issues that can cause them physical distress and psychosomatic problems. Study authors Gianluca Gini and Tiziana Pozzoli write, “Given that school bullying is a prevalent occurrence in many states around the globe, the present results suggest that bullying should be described as a considerable foreign public health issue.”
Others studies report that as many as one in four kids is intimidated. There have now been several incidents of teens bullied to the point of committing suicide, most recently 12-year-old Rebecca Sedwick, who jumped off a building because of cyberbullying.
“If my kids do not call names and pick on others, I’d expect other parents to teach their children to be respectful, too,” she said. “There happen to be times my kids would point at others and say, ‘why is her hair so unusual’ and things like this, and I would say, ‘You know, individuals are different, and that’s just the way they are.’ ”
She says it is important to realize that bullying comes in a variety of forms. “I recognize that sometimes schools make an effort to do as much as they can, but intimidation does not have to physical; name-calling and putting someone down are considered bullying to me.”