Dear Savvy Auntie,

My oldest nephew is having problems at school - not grades; he is a straight-A student - with bullies. He is having trouble making friends, and even changed his clothing style to certain name-brand clothes to fit in.

To add to that, we found out he had been sexually assaulted by another boy at school (this is being taken care of). When asked if he is being bullied or picked on his response is, "What's the point in telling you?! There's nothing you can do about it!" He gets angry a lot and likes to be alone, and has recently said that he wants to kill himself. He is only 10 years old.

I want so badly to be there for him, but he lives four hours away. It's killing me to see him going through this. I went through this exact thing (slightly worse) myself at the same age. I would go through all of it all over again just so he wouldn't have to experience this. Any advice??

Anti-Bullying Auntie

Dear Anti-Bullying Auntie,

On behalf of your nephew, you are at an advantage in having been bullied when you were younger and could talk to him about your experiences and how you overcame them. This could give him some perspective and hope for his future. You are also at a disadvantage, as you might blend your experience with his and not be able to see his as clearly.

The first step is to have his parents speak to the school administration and teachers and enlist their assistance and guidance in monitoring the bully’s behavior.
The second and most important step is to set up a consultation with an outside psychotherapist to evaluate his threat/gesture/statement of “killing himself.” Although usually an expression of despair, it should be taken seriously enough to have a professional evaluate his emotional status. I know this is very disturbing, but a necessary safety precaution.

The third step is for the adults in his life to really, really listen to him. Our tendency is to cheer him up, minimize his experience, and chin-chucking/cheek-plucking good cheer. This only infuriates him and makes him feel more alone.

The fourth step is to empower him in some way… trading cards? New fad treats? Tickets to a sporting or musical event, with an extra for a friend? I hope you and his parents get the idea.

These steps are just a way to point you in the right direction not a time line.
My heart goes out to him and the people who love him and my hopes for a quick turn-around.

Natalie Robinson Garfield


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