DEAR STEEL ADVICE: When a child is dealing with being bullied a lot (to the point of tears/helplessness/over emotionality), what things can you do to get him or her more confident and not succumb to peer pressure and bullying? Karate? Team sports? Counseling? Having a child who gets along with everyone outside of school with no problems but yet can't seem to get through one school day without breakdowns is really wearing on me.
-- CONCERNED PARENT
DEAR CONCERNED PARENT: Bullying is no longer thought of as "just a part of growing up." Your job is to listen to your child and become his/her proactive defender. Sidestepping the bullying issue by signing up for an activity outside of school may help build your child's self-confidence, but it will not eliminate his/her classroom fragility. You have to address the root problem with your child's teacher and guidance counselor. Do not hesitate to ask for written weekly progress reports or meetings until things become stable.
A child's daily breakdown is indicative of unbearable turmoil. Be positive and try to work as part of a team with the school professionals. You may want to bring an advocate with you to the teacher meetings however, if you feel you are being ignored or stonewalled. Your health insurance company can provide coverage for sessions with a family social worker for further guidance. Classroom bullying has serious consequences; it should never be swept under the rug.
DEAR STEEL ADVICE: Is it appropriate for an ex-wife to go to the funeral of her ex-mother-in-law?
DEAR QUESTIONING: It is appropriate to pay your respects to honor your former mother-in-law. Be discreet at the funeral home and low key. Sign the roster and leave. You are no longer part of this family, and your presence serves no purpose if it dredges up painful memories at an already difficult time for your ex-husband. If the wounds of the divorce are raw and bitter, a sympathy card sent to the funeral director may be a better way to pay your respects. When young children are involved, prepare them with appropriate good memories and stories about their grandmother. Ask a neutral relative, who the children know, to accompany them to their grandmother's funeral services.
Need some Steel Advice? Email questions to: firstname.lastname@example.org or write to Mary Ann Wellener, Steel Advice Column, c/o Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh, PA 15222. Follow Mary Ann on Twitter at @PGSteelAdvice.