Is your child at risk of being bullied?

Published in Behavioral Health Services, Child Advocacy Services, Pediatrics, Eating Disorders Author: Jennifer Harris, RDN LD CEDRD

Most kids who are bullied have one thing in common. They are overweight.

Bullying about body size is more common than kids being ridiculed for physical disabilities, their family’s income or sexual preference. When children are bullied and teased about their weight, it can lead to feelings of depression, low self-esteem and poor body image. Even being labeled overweight can make a child feel flawed in every way; not smart, not physically capable and not good about themselves. It can make kids want to avoid being around others or stop doing their usual activities.

If you are concerned that your child may be bullied, ask your child if he/she has experienced:

  • Being made fun of
  • Being called names
  • Getting comments about weight or appearance
  • Receiving harassing phone calls, emails or text messages
  • Receiving verbal threats
  • Having rumors spread about him/her
  • Being excluded from school or social activities
  • Being ignored
  • Being humiliated in public
  • Being pushed, tripped or elbowed
  • Being physically assaulted
  • Being spit on
  • Having property stolen or damaged

If your child is being bullied about weight, comfort your child and remind him/her that you love them. Explain to your child that teasing and bullying is always wrong. If your child says that what happened made him/her want to lose weight remind him/her that changing themselves won’t stop a bully. Reassure your child that he/she has the body that is right for him/her. It is important for you to discourage childhood dieting since food restriction typically results in weight gain, not weight loss.

Take your job of feeding your child seriously, know your responsibilities with feeding so that he/she can grow up to have the body that is right for them. Proper feeding does not include restricting a child’s food. Proper feeding does require effort to be consistent with providing regular meals and snacks. Learn more about feeding to support consistent growth and development in your child from the Division of Responsibility information from the Ellyn Satter Institute.

As a parent, you can be an advocate by talking to your child’s principal and teachers about this issue. Also think about your own attitude about body size. Don’t make an issue out of other people’s weight or your own.

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