The other day a friend for my advice. Her kid is only 6, but his classmates are commenting that he's "fat".
What do you think I should do, Aimee?
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Seriously, I don't believe this person thinks I'm wise. They were asking me because I was that kid and now I appear to be fine. And they were not asking me about how to approach the school, or address the kids or their parents, but rather how to help their child develop coping skills.
So the question really was, how did I "get over it"
Did I get over it or just plow through it?
Traveling back in time, I was anti-social to start with. I was the girl drawing horses and reading books about horses. Making it easier, I was in public school back in the days when there were only 4 TV channels. I don't think thin had such a premium back then as the only thin role model I can remember before Olivia Newton John in Grease, is Road Runner. I do remember being made fun of for my last name (Go to Hell-er), for always drawing horses and for being weird in general. if you asked me what I was going to be when I grew up, I'd tell you I wanted to be a horse. And I meant it.
I was weird and I knew it. I remember not knowing what to do about that, but there was that level of awareness. I had friends - the other weird kids. Now they call them "gifted". At P.E., I was picked last for the sports teams but it was common knowledge I'd prefer to use that time to daydream. When we played baseball, the far far left field was mine.
I was also the kid the art teacher would pull out of class to paint school play scenery.
So, really, I dealt with it by retreating into the books and art. Or, perhaps, I retreated into the books and art first and didn't notice much else. I was also one of those overscheduled kids with ballet, swimming, language, piano and lapidary so I didn't have much time to dwell on such things.
So what do I think would work?
1. Non-judgmental discussion of why the others kids might be saying what they're saying: They don't know it makes you feel bad. The fact that kids point out differences...
2. Honesty. Coach the child to be able to talk about his or her feelings. "I don't think it's right that you're pointing things out about me. You wouldn't like it if I called attention to your freckles/big ears/buck teeth/dad in jail, would you?" Practice as role playing.
3. Humor. It's always good to be able to laugh at yourself. This way if someone laughs at you, you can dismiss them - heck, you could think of something funnier about yourself than that.
4. Unconditional love from the parents. After a hard day at school it's nice to come home to someone who accepts you as you are. It helps you accept yourself.
5. Help your child find something to excel in. It could be art, music, soccer or flower arranging. This way he or she learns that not all pride comes from the way you look. Even the mean kids have to give you respect if you're talented. (And "talented" just means that your kid is more talented at something than them. Origami, even.)
6. Help the child lose weight by finding the way that works for the kid. Really, no one wants to have a child who feels out of place and it's not the best for a child. Find the child a sport he likes. Dance. Gardening. Fencing. Walking on a treadmill in front of the TV. Make it a family thing. Make it something you, the mom, do one on one with your child, like jogging or taking a walk together. Something he looks forward to even if it is exercise with the Wii.
But don't make it feel like work! Make it feel like fun. As soon as a kid senses something is work and you want them to do it, they may stop doing it just to annoy you.
What not to do is make the child feel guilty or different in a bad way as in: I bought Burger King for the whole family, but those fries are for everyone but you. if, as parents, you want to scarf a family size bag of Doritos, that's fine. Just wait until 9 when the kid is asleep - or reading by flashlight.
But, really, as I write this I am thinking of my friend's kid. He's not fat. He's just big for his age, as in he's tall as well. Kids are mean. Kids are ignorant. On the bright side, I bet he'll be a great writer someday.
Moms, what do you think about all this? Any ideas?