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Bullying of adopted daughter

(33 Posts)
flightywoman Sun 03-Jan-16 16:03:35

My daughter, 8 yo, been home for over 3 years, has recently disclosed that she is being bullied at school and that the bullies are using the fact of her being adopted as their weapon.

They tell her she is unwanted, not loved by us, that she doesn't belong with us, that she should be with her "real family" etc etc.

This is having the most awful effect on her - I suspect she partly thinks they're right - she is bad tempered, confrontational and angry, she is taking it out on her friends and on me.

And I am heartbroken. These children are ruining her and making her unhappy.

The other problem is that she doesn't know their names and I just don't know where to start.

Obviously I will be going to talk to school next week, but without names what can I do?

I'm usually not in favour of the victim having to run away but her confidence is so low that she doesn't have anything left with which to stand up to them.

What am I going to do? I'm so angry and upset with them all for hurting my beautiful girl...

UnderTheNameOfSanders Sun 03-Jan-16 19:06:05

Definitely talk to the school.

If nothing else they should have photos of all the children somewhere, even if only on whole class photos so she should be able to pick them out to identify them.

My DD's have thankfully never been bullied about being adopted but we have regularly given them the messages
- it is nothing to be ashamed about
- your BF loved you but couldn't keep you safe
- we are yours forever
- families are made in many different ways
(I suspect you're doing that already though)

You could try to give her responses. I know it's not really the done thing, but a response such as 'well my parents chose me, yours are stuck with a mean daughter like you' and/or 'they are my real family, it's not like I'm imagining them is it?'
However it sounds like her self confidence might be a bit low to deal with responses, and if she doesn't know the names, are they older than her?

Can she get her friends to stick up for her?

mybloodykitchen Sun 03-Jan-16 20:28:29

In a primary school this should be really easy to narrow down. I suspect the least of your problems will be identifying the perpetrators. How supportive is the school generally? You need to be prepared to take no shit.

Hels20 Sun 03-Jan-16 21:16:56

Sanders gives good advice. I have nothing to add only I am so sorry for your DD going through this. It's one thing I have always worried about and another reason why I have not told anyone (apart from teacher) that DS is adopted - although he came to us when he was younger than yours.

Hope the school sorts it out asap. How dreadful.

Italiangreyhound Mon 04-Jan-16 02:26:43

Flighty well done for finding out and well done for getting angry! What am I going to do? I'm so angry and upset with them all for hurting my beautiful girl... You are so right. Too many times I hear parents not being able to stand up for their kids effectively, it is tough, but you need to do it.

In your shoes I'd try and do a three-pronged 'attack' on this bullying behaviour and its impact on your lovely dd.

Like you I would immediately want to get the school involved to identify these children, they should have photos on record of all the kids in the school surely, as others have said.

If they cannot identify the exact girls they need to work out how to identify them and how to stop this, identifying the girls and stopping it is the schools problem.

It is happening on their premises while they are responsible for your child's welfare. Try and be calm, when you go and see the school.

Do you think you will be able to talk to the school without getting upset and without being 'fobbed off'? If you are parenting with a partner, consider taking them in with you if you think you will get upset/angry; if you are parenting alone, could you take another suitable friend or family member if you feel you will get upset?

I am sure you are talking to her about all this and that is what I would also want to do. Talk to your dd openly about what they are saying, try and just listen at first while she says things. Don't rush to fill the space or tell her how awful that must be or whatever straight away. Try and get her to say how it feels and give her the vocabulary to describe it, if she struggles but allow her to try first. You may find she says some interesting things and if you jump in too quick you will not hear it.

Hopefully you know how to get her to talk, does she talk more in the car, or walking, side by side, or perhaps baking her favourite cake together? If you sit down and say 'right let's talk about this' she might appreciate it or she might run for the hills. So go for the way that best works normally and if you encounter problems just say shall we carry on talking now or stop and talk later? Make sure you give her some autonomy over things. Bullying takes away her freedoms and rights and so it is important she does not feel 'bullied' at home into talking about it at great length if it makes her very uncomfortable. Then you can try and address any issues she bring up. Don't just deny her feelings or concerns or shut her down with 'that's not true, of course we love you' etc but of course you need to tell her you love her, so maybe you could say things like "I do love you very much. These girls don't know me, and they don't how much I love you. Maybe there are reasons they are behaving like this that are nothing to do with you." or words to that affect. That is what I would do in your shoes.

Anyway, please don't shut her down because she may then find it hard to be open with you.

My third prong in your shoes would be to use time with her to build up her self esteem away from school or this issue. You'll need to think what would work with her. My 11 year old non-adopted dd (my ds is adopted, aged 5) is dyslexic and struggles at school. She can't play music and doesn't want to do martial arts or dance. We really wanted to find things she would be good at and we found she really enjoys Guides and she loves stuff like climbing trees and doing those high climbing things like 'Go Ape'.

Italiangreyhound Mon 04-Jan-16 03:18:36

I really think you should access some post adoption support to address these issues, how ever these things have been 'stirred up' in your dd, please do seek professional help.

Please also look on regular bullying websites.

Although I agree with all of Sanders excellent advice about building up your dd and giving her positive messages about herself I am not sure retaliating with insults will be helpful. The girls may be quicker and sharper and come up with ever more stupid comments and your dd may be left floundering.

It can sometimes be better to cultivate a kind of fog which is around your dd, like a cloud, which harmful comments cannot penetrate. She can think of this herself, a kind of forcefield to keep out these mean comments. Maybe she can see the girls and hear the words but she doesn't let them come into her hearing properly. Of course if the bullying is physical she will need to make sure she is safe, get away from them etc. But if they are walking behind her and saying mean things can she kind of ignore them? I read this somewhere, I am happy to be contradicted if this is not helpful!

I must add these are just things I have read and I would advise you search some anti bullying websites. You must also tell her that although she is trying to ignore these things it is TOTALLY wrong for the girls to say them... wrong because they are not true and wrong because they are hurtful.

This means these girls are cruel and malicious, they want to hurt her, maybe they themselves are sad in some way and making themselves feel better by picking on someone younger, or three onto one, they are cowards. Your dd needs to know that they are not any kind of 'authority' on anything, they are stupid, by knowing this and thinking this it might help to deflect some of the 'power' of those cruel words.

I agree with Kitchen take no shit.

Don't shut down lines of communication with school, be firm and clear, how is this going to be sorted, what will be done and when and by whom. make a note who will do what .

If it does not get shut down a.s.a.p. go back, not a disappointed face but righteously indignation!

Can I ask how these girls know your dd was adopted. Did she tell them or did anyone else? Is this something you generally keep private? We do not tell people at school (except the teacher) that ds is adopted (Year 1, aged 5) except in a weak moment I did tell another mum! Who may have told another! So a few people do know. It is not always possible to keep this information private, and I am a lot more vigilant now. I tell ds, it is your story to tell but if you tell people they will know and you cannot untell them, so if you talk about birth parents, foster carers or adoption etc then people will know. He is not terribly interested to talk about any of this, at home with us or elsewhere. I am just saying this because in life your dd will have new situations to join (clubs, hobbies whatever) and it is always her choice if she does not want people to know.

Skill 2 Leave in a Powerful, Positive Way

USA website about bullying

www.nea.org/home/51629.htm

This is a Christian book and may or may not be your cup of tea but the bits that stand out form the reviews are:

www.amazon.co.uk/Stand-Strong-Nick-Vujicic/dp/030773093X

“Nick explains, “Your bully’s motives don’t matter. You do. Your safety and your happiness are more important to me and everyone else who loves and cares about you; so instead of focusing on why a bully is picking on you, let’s focus on helping you feel secure and happy again. ... I will help you build your antibully antibodies.”

Go into the school presuming they are going to deal with this.

Italiangreyhound Mon 04-Jan-16 03:25:37

OK, must go to bed, sorry I have so many opinions on this, I am very angry about any bullying.

IF you check in here before you go to school tomorrow (I know it is late). Please take a quick look at the Schools website and the UK government info on bullying.

www.gov.uk/government/publications/preventing-and-tackling-bullying

There may not be time to read it all but print anything relevant off and take it with you, if this would be helpful.

You may end up sitting outside an office and have time to flick through it.

Alternatively, you could ask the school for a copy of their anti bullying policy on arrival and ask the teacher/head or whoever speaks to you to point out to you the relevant part of their policy.

And it goes without saying that you should be seen in a room with a door that shuts, privately. When I spoke to our head about an incident she spoke to me in a crowded room which made it hard to make my case! I learnt from it but of course being a typical polite person I didn't pull her up on the fact she did not address my letter with a private call or meeting. Because she had not replied I spoke to her in a crowded place. My fault but not again!

flightywoman Mon 04-Jan-16 16:14:46

Thank you - so very much. School go back tomorrow so I will be addressing it tomorrow onwards. They talk a lot about their anti-bullying policy and have made a film about it, but that means nothing if they don't follow it through.

One thing I am at a loss about is how the kids know - we have separate infant and junior structure and she has just gone into the junior school.

I'd say that some of her class know she is adopted, because she is vocal about her brother and her foster-carers and it is very obvious that we do not have a younger sibling with us. I suppose that's probably the root of the knowledge.

We had a decision to make early on because she joined the infant school in-year so we, as adults, had loads of those friendly and usually innocuous questions - "have you just moved to the area?", "where was she at school before?" etc etc. I wasn't really prepared for that and couldn't think of what to say, and I didn't really want to lie to people I was hoping would become new friends. And that coupled with having to make it clear that she was not lying about having a brother led to us feeling that there was no other option than to be up front about it with the people we see regularly. I might have done it differently, with hindsight.

But now she's at another school and I have no idea how the kids there even know - it's year 4 and upwards, not really children that she has ever had a great deal to do with, and most of them aren't even the older siblings of her friends.

I am arming myself for tomorrow, and quiet, steely, determination is the way I usually make my point so it will be more of the same I think, to start with.

Again, thank you so much.

mybloodykitchen Mon 04-Jan-16 16:23:22

Flightywoman whether you told people or didn't none of this is your fault thanks

Read the policy carefully. Make sure they acknowledge it as bullying and that their plan of action doesn't involve your dd changing HER behaviour. That's all too common ('she can stand next to the lunchtime supervisors').

Stipulate how progress should be communicated and when you are going to review it ('the class teacher should let me know at the end of every day if the school is aware of any further incidents and we'll meet again next Thursday when hopefully we'll be able to say that it's completely finished')

Italiangreyhound Mon 04-Jan-16 16:46:27

Flighty can I ask if your dd has been with you long? Don't say if you do not want to.

Re ... having to make it clear that she was not lying about having a brother led to us feeling that there was no other option than to be up front about it with the people we see regularly. I might have done it differently, with hindsight.

I am not sure you could with people who know she has a brother. But if she didn't want to talk about the brother except with really special friends you can be a bit withholding of info!

Re ....had loads of those friendly and usually innocuous questions - "have you just moved to the area?", "where was she at school before?" etc etc. I wasn't really prepared for that and couldn't think of what to say, and I didn't really want to lie to people I was hoping would become new friends.

My husband was the same with ds, he did not like lying. I must be more devious because although I do not like lying I quite like finding slightly devious ways around things!

EG Which school did she go to before?

Oh it was just a local school, not far away, I'd rather not say.
We feel really positive about this one.
We have heard such good things etc.

If you put enough distance between their original question and the chance for a follow up question if might even sound rude of them to ask...

"And why did she move?"

But if they are brave enough or stupid enough to ask, "And why did she move?"

You can be honest and say "We thought this school was better/the best."

Certainly better than going to the school she went to in foster care 100 miles away, is the full truth maybe, but you don't say that!

Also, if you are flattering the school, the school their kid already goes to, the school you both chose, they may well want to say 'Well, yes we really like it." Or they might want to set you straight "Well, some things have not been so great...."

And before you know it you are off on a love feast of this great school you both picked, or you are finding out useful things about what doesn't work well at the school!

I know I sound devious, maybe I should have been a spy!! Too much of a coward! grin

Anyone rude enough to ask "Why exactly did your dd leave the school?"

Should get a stern "Because we thought this one was better!"

Or Which school did you say?"
I didn't.

Or What school did you leave?
(Frustrated voice) I'd rather not say!

A Paddington Bear 'hard stare' is optional!

You will probably mentally note this person may well not be the best new friend you might hope for as she or he is unable to keep their big beak out!

Re But now she's at another school and I have no idea how the kids there even know - it's year 4 and upwards, not really children that she has ever had a great deal to do with, and most of them aren't even the older siblings of her friends.

Kids talk, maybe your dd is telling them. This may be a way to explain about not being able to un-tell but also making sure she knows adoption is not anything to be ashamed of!

Italiangreyhound Mon 04-Jan-16 16:52:45

Kitchen has said it all so well.

It is not your fault.

We were lucky and were able to not to tell new friends because ds has no siblings and isn't that interested in talking about his birth family. However, our dd is 11 so a lot of children aged 10 or 11 at school all know ds is adopted and dd has received some mean comments from one person about her brother, which was very hurtful to her and me but lucky ds never got to hear about it.

We were just lucky that no one has picked on him about anything.

*Kitchen is totally right, it's their policy, make sure you know it, they need to acknowledge it is bullying and that our dd is not in some way penalised, e.g. moved to another playground or space etc.

Good luck for tomorrow.

Italiangreyhound Mon 04-Jan-16 16:55:29

your not our, of course!

flightywoman Mon 04-Jan-16 18:53:28

She's been with us for over 3 years so when we did tell people it was years ago and tbh, it's not been a problem at all till now - the ones that know forget day-to-day, and we are very fortunate that there really isn't the bitching and factionalising I read about so often on MN! Our year group does have groups who know one another better than others, but even so they don't gang together or freeze people out.

She talks about her brother all the time - literally! And as she was nearly 5 when she came to us that made it really hard - even if she had been able to not talk about him sometimes there's no way she could have maintained it!

Hels20 Mon 04-Jan-16 19:08:54

Flighty - I hope my earlier comment didn't cause you any upset. It is much easier not to have to explain DS's back story when (a) he was 2 when he came to us so a good 20 months before school and (b) he has no siblings and (c) he is very quiet and has never been vocal. Totally irrelevant how people came to know - and in fact, if your DD is open about her adoption then nothing wrong with that! And v difficult to explain to people when you have to start mid year.

Hope you get this sorted soon. Another of my nightmares - bullying. Why are children so cruel?

Italiangreyhound Mon 04-Jan-16 19:45:38

Flighty really the more you say the more it seems inevitable people will know so preparing your dd for any comments etc is a potentially useful thing (although those other girls are total bitches of course!!).

Your a more experienced adopter than me (DS has been home about 20 months) and it sounds like you've done exactly the right thing in this situation so i can't really say much more.

I do know a bit about bullying because it seems to happen a fair bit at dd's school but not to dd. And I take an interest because it boils my blood to see anyone picked on!

TeenAndTween Mon 04-Jan-16 19:59:33

I always assume people know about my DDs.

DD1 was a bit put out when she started secondary and had people coming up to her saying 'is it true you're adopted?' . I needed to explain that her classmates from primary would have mentioned it in passing. e.g. 'that's XX she's really fast at running; that's YY she's adopted; that's ZZ she used to live in Russia'.

My guess is some bigger kids heard by whatever route, mentioned it, got a reaction, and so have continued. They (charitably) may not even realise quite how much upset they are causing.

I would expect the HT in a good school to take this quite seriously and take action / resolve it quickly.

flightywoman Mon 04-Jan-16 20:20:45

Hels, no apology needed, not upset at all, really.

I think you're right Teen, they probably have absolutely no idea of the upset and damage they're causing. Though I wonder what they've overheard to make them say that we don't love her or that it's a bad thing that we wanted a child. [shrug]

You've all been really helpful, I've used some of your advices this evening to prepare her for tomorrow and it seems to have gone ok, she isn't dreading it and seems to be glad to have some coping mechanisms ready.

I am hopeful that the Head takes it seriously, she talks a good talk so I hope she's as good at putting it into practice.

TeenAndTween Mon 04-Jan-16 20:23:58

I think that a lot of children's 'knowledge' of fostering/adoption comes from watching Tracey Beaker on TV.

mybloodykitchen Mon 04-Jan-16 22:54:39

Good luck. I suggest the daily discussion because otherwise you may feel you're annoying the teacher by asking but you don't want to be worrying. And the review because they should nip this in the bud quickly and, if their initial strategies don't work, they're going to need to come up with new ones pronto.

Your poor dd. Just constantly reminding her this is about them and whatever is fucking them up not her sad

Italiangreyhound Tue 05-Jan-16 02:23:13

TeenAndTween re My guess is some bigger kids heard by whatever route, mentioned it, got a reaction, and so have continued. They (charitably) may not even realise quite how much upset they are causing. I agree with the first but but not the second!

Sorry but they probably have absolutely no idea of the upset and damage they're causing. I am not sure this is the case, they must realise that what they are saying is cruel and hurtful, they just do not realise how much so.

Re Though I wonder what they've overheard to make them say that we don't love her or that it's a bad thing that we wanted a child. Please do not internalise this, one of my dd's not so little classmates thought I had 'stolen' my son and said so out loud! Some of it may be ignorance, some of it stupidity but I think to say to a younger child you do not think her parents love her is just mean.

Be angry, if they are innocently saying mean things they need to be told and to mend their ways. Don't give the teacher an excuse to brush it under the carpet, if it is not innocent do not give anyone a script that it is, if really is innocent they will hopefully say so and make amends! (PS IMHO - feel free to ignore me!)

TeenAndTween Tue 05-Jan-16 08:04:59

I agree with Italian really. I am sure they are meaning to upset, it is the extent they may not realise.

flightywoman Tue 05-Jan-16 17:21:53

We spoke to the teacher about it today, he was instantly on the case, and said that he and daughter will go together to the playground tomorrow to see if she can identify them. Very glad we raised it, very keen to make sure it stops at once and very reinforcing of the school message that it's not ok. And he gave her lots of praise for telling us.

I am happy with this as a first step...

Thanks everyone for all your advice and hand-holding, I really appreciate it.

Italiangreyhound Tue 05-Jan-16 17:58:58

Fab news Flighty well done. Can tonight be extra nice for your lovely girl, nice extended story time or yummy pud, or extra TV show? It's been a massive day for her!

Well done, you (wine or G and T or extra telly for you too!!!)

Italiangreyhound Tue 05-Jan-16 17:59:56

TeenAndTween I know I am pathetic but I can't get enough of I agree with Italian really!!!!

Hels20 Tue 05-Jan-16 19:04:40

Flighty just logged on to see if you had provided an update- thank you and what a great response from teacher.
Long may the support continue!

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