Dear Savvy Auntie,

My sister has informed me that my almost 7 year old niece, Abbey, is being picked on/bullied at school & day care. Abbey is who I want to be when I grow up. Abbey is amazing in every department (she's funny, super smart, etc) and is so laid back. Whenever she puts her mind to something, she excels beyond our expectations. The reason she is singled out is because she is overweight. My sister was overweight growing up, and wants to protect Abbey at all costs, understandably. She calls me crying saying she wants to pull Abbey out of school, because she's afraid that she might get ideas of hurting herself.

This is where it gets hard: I live in California. I'm a flight attendant, but also a full time student. My sister lives 30 miles south of D.C. My goal in life is to be closer to my sister & her family, but it's slow going. I hate that I can't tell my nieces everyday how amazing they are, & how our lives would be so sad and boring without them...and of course how much I love them. I try to visit 3 times a year, but school has significantly reduced my visits. I'm down to a 2 week visit during the summer, and that's it.

Anyway, what would you do for Miss Abbey? (By the way, Abbey has a big sister....they are my EVERYTHING! :))

Auntie of Bullied Niece

Dear Auntie of Bullied Niece,

It hurts my heart to hear about your niece, Abbey being picked on at such a very young age. I am sympathetic to your plight geographically and wonder if it is possible for your sister and the girls to visit you. In addition, you could set up a schedule so that the contact could increase.

My number one suggestion for you to make to your sister is a visit to the pediatrician for tests to determine if there is a physical/chemical cause for Abbey’s obesity. If not, next step is a visit to a pediatric nutritionist to set up an eating plan. I would include a gym teacher or coach to encourage her to play a sport and get more active. While this is happening I strongly suggest your sister visit Abbey’s teacher, principal, and the school psychologist and request that they get involved.

Caution your sister not to project her own childhood feelings on her daughter…a difficult task!
The topic of bullying has taken center stage in our country. There is a new film in theaters “BULLY” that is informative and painful. You and your sister could both go to see it and learn a great deal about the topic. There are also many books available for both parents and kids that are helpful in combating it.

Many celebrities are getting on board… Elton John, Lady Ga Ga and Demi Lavado, to name just a few. They are good role models, for Abbey to see that her future can be bright while learning coping strategies.

I hope this is helpful and her struggle is eased and eliminated.

Best Wishes,
Natalie Robinson Garfield


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