I've read story after story of kids bullying kids who have no hair, either due to cancer or alopecia (a condition we don't know much about but seems to be growing with each year). When I was a kid, it wasn't called bullying; it was just a part of normal life in school to be teased for being overweight, losing your hair, being a geek, having braces, or not being with the “in crowd”.
One particular story we personally experienced here at AJ's Wigs happened when a young girl of a mere 9 years old, who had lost her hair mysteriously at the age of 5, came into the salon with her mom and her mom's boyfriend (who had raised her). I'll never forget it. When we put the first wig on her and styled it, she began to cry hysterically. Her mother and her mother's boyfriend started crying, then we started crying. You see? She had been teased so much, that because the wig looked so real on her, no one could possibly notice it was a wig. Her mother held her and the girl said “I look so beautiful , just like the other kids”.
How do you handle your child being bullied like that? Most of the time, parents don't even know that it's happening. I mean, I never told my parents that I was teased/bullied. Did you? I guess today it's worse, because of the internet and Facebook, kids (and even adults) have open forums to teasing or bullying. First of all, education is a powerful tool. Sit down with the school and ask them if your daughters condition (plus others) can be part of an assembly, whether during that school year or in the future. If you educate kids on alopecia and the fact that it is one of those things we medically don't know much about, the victims of alopecia are just that... VICTIMS.
The more kids know and understand that it could happen to them, the more they will sympathize with your child. Giving kids education about why people lose their hair, gives them understanding that things like alopecia and cancer is like Russian roulette and that it could happen to them just like it's happening to your son or daughter. It is true when I say that people fear what they don't understand, and unfortunately alopecia or other kinds of hair loss fall into that category of being misunderstood and making those uneducated about the cause feel uncomfortable.
Second, use your child's Facebook page to educated family and friends. As much as a negative tool Facebook can be these days, it can be a powerful tool as well. Put some information on your child's FB page about alopecia or hair loss in general. Empower your child through accurate information and passing it on to others. This could be as simple as posting an article about childhood hair loss, or sharing an uplifting status/story of another child who is going through the same obstacle.
One mother describes how her daughter was pushed down the stairs at school while kids yelled “watch how a cue ball rolls”. She took her child out of school and decided to home school her. I disagree with this. Not only does this teach those bully's that they've won, but it teaches your child that it's perfectly acceptable to run from a tough situation, rather than teaching them how to face such situations head-on. Concentrate on the positive ways you can make things better.
Another suggestion we at AJ'S Wigs have is to either ask the school if you could put a bunch of informational pamphlets on bulletin boards and /or class rooms, or to give your child a bunch of pamphlets for her to keep in her back pack and every time someone teases or bullies her, have her turn around and give this pamphlet to the bully and give her a clever saying to say to the bully like.... “here is some information because it might happen to you, too.” Another suggestion we have made in the past is to check to see if your child's school has some type of newspaper. Most schools have news papers who love human interest stories and informational stories. “My Daddy taught me never to run from a situation because its always better to face things when they happen rather then to let them get out of control.”
Another mother describes the fact that her daughter was so bullied at the age of 14 that her daughter attempted suicide. After being bullied for years, the final straw was when several girls decided to get together, rip her daughter's wig off, and use it as a football. They then took a lighter and burned it in front of her, taped the whole thing and put it on Facebook. The schools response?? Priceless and very smart! With the permission of these bullies' parents (all but one),they called an assembly, put 5 chairs on the stage, and taped the bullies getting their hair shaved (donating it to cancer, of course) and put it on Facebook for all to see. The icing on the cake; these girls had to attend school without wigs. There are so many clever ways of handling things and I'm all for protecting our kids, but for heaven,s sake, don't pull them from social interaction, because that will follow them the rest of their lives.
I think the thing to do is educate your kids of how to handle things as they come. Don't wait until it's too late. Teach your children how to handle bullies . Teach them that there will be kids who don't understand and don't have the informational tools to handle someone who looks different. Teach them that kids bully out of fear. Maybe they are afraid they might catch something from your child. Who knows, but along with educating the public, you must teach your child how to handle it. But for heaven's sake,I repeat... don't pull them from social interaction, because that will follow them the rest of their lives.
I know, I know, some might disagree with me by telling me that “it's easier said than done” or “My child's mental health is more important then educating other kids who grow up ignorant or are bullies.”. But if we teach our children to:
1)Not tell us, or a teacher, that they are being bullied
2)That they are scared.
3)That they needed help
Then I promise, as stated above, this will start a pattern of a life time of self image problems. Alopecia is one of those things that doesn't go away and once you lose your hair, it can come and go all your life. One moment, your hair starts to grow back, the next moment, its gone again, or you get patches and you have one of three choices, either try to hide it, go around bald, or get a wig.
But it doesn't stop with your kids. If you are truly involved with your kids' lives, then your kids shall never hear the following words uttered from your mouth..”Oh Susie, suck it up, they are only teasing you”.. or.. “look at me, I was teased in school and I turned out ok”. If you know there is even the smallest of problems, then as a parent you have an obligation of calling the school and being your child's voice. It is also the teacher's responsibility. If we all work together as a team (in a perfect world), then we can nip your child's nightmare in the butt.
But let's talk about the old days verses now. When I was in school, we did not have the internet, and had to rely on total communication not only with our parents, but with our school councilors, our churchs (pastors), and even our friends. If I was being teased or hurt at school, I would tell someone. Back then, it wasn't considered being a snitch (or at least where I came from in Massachusetts's it wasn't). I also had the type of parents who, although not overly protective to being unhealthy, did encourage open communication. My parents taught me cleaver ways of handling different situations, not by putting me in self defense classes, but other ways such as laughing at people who made fun of me. The reason for this little trick is that if I laughed with them, I took away their power to hurt me and rendered them unable to produce a joke or insult that was hurtful to me. Or another saying ”Hey, sorry you feel that way but you have a right to your opinion”. If that didn't work, we would get a school councilor involved or a teacher, and then onto the principle . I'm actually not sure how I would suggest to handle internet bullying as I don't have experience in that, except I know that in today's age, you can hide who you are by making fake profiles and that bullying has gotten far worse due to anonymity. They know that they most likely won't get caught unless the police get involved right away . They are doing it to either embarrass you or get a rise out of you. Teach your child to either not respond or make a joke back about the subject... TAKE AWAY THEIR POWER!!! Also, teach your child to keep records of things that are said on line and at school (almost like a bullying journal) but I still think the best way to avoid bullying is to put information on your child FB page about alopecia. Everything in me tells me that this is the best way to nip it in the bud.
Bullying has been in the national spot light for a while, not so much lately since current events such as the election and other things (if you know what I mean), but while I was doing my research for this blog, I read that bullying has been on the decline for about 4 years now (especially ages7-12) . This doesn't mean it doesn't happen, but in general, from what I'm reading, we are on the right track.
Educate your child... educate the school and teach your child to face their fears and handle bullies with humor or education, but don't let you child face this alone. Ask them if they are being teased about their wigs (or other things) and don't wait until it's too late.