Q: I am concerned that my daughter might be teased in our bungalow colony’s day camp this summer as she was last year. She never actually told me about this; I heard about the daily teasing from a camp counselor — not hers — after the summer was over. I was pretty surprised, as my daughter is usually one who complains when something bothers her. When I brought it up with her, my daughter claimed she feared that our family would cut short our summer vacation and return to the city if we heard about this problem.
I was surprised that she perceived the teasing as something my husband and I would not be able to solve. I’m also concerned that the camp didn’t notice (or take care of) it, and that it could happen again if the staff is not on top of things.
I’m also worried that she will not confide in us in the future if another difficult situation comes up in her life. I hold a responsible job, and my daughter sees that I’m often in the position of helping to solve difficult problems. Why would she think that I couldn’t help her in this situation? She is a bit of a perfectionist, and can complain about things very easily. Was she embarrassed to tell me? I don’t understand.
A: If your daughter is verbally forthcoming, it can be difficult to understand why she withheld this information from you. Perhaps, being a perfectionist, she was afraid you would be disappointed in her for being unable to deal with the situation, or for being singled out as a victim to begin with.
Some children point out that the popular girls are not chosen to be teased, but in reality, this is usually not the case. “Popular” girls can be teased by their peers, but they have the social skills to respond in kind and not allow the teasing to become a form of cruel entertainment for others.
A child can sometimes feel discomfort and not reveal painful information to a parent. However, your disappointment in your child’s withholding this information will not help create the trust you desire.
When a child is ostracized during recess and excluded from playing group games, deep down she may feel that if she were able to play the game better, she would more readily be picked by a team leader. Perhaps she fears that if she confided in you, you might respond to her dilemma along the lines of: “If you followed instructions better, they would pick you,” or “If you weren’t so shy, they would speak more to you.”
A perfectionist always focuses on what she lacks, and perhaps fears that her parent, too, will focus on what she is doing incorrectly. It is better to be more empathetic when hearing about the teasing that occurred, and speak of a time in your life (and your husband’s) when you were teased and how you successfully responded.
Explain to your daughter that the camp staff needs to know if one girl is teasing another. It could be that the girl is doing it when no counselor is around, or teases in a very subtle, annoying manner that is difficult to notice. Your daughter is helping no one by concealing this information, as the teaser is not being confronted to change her behavior and can continue to hurt many others.
Stress the idea that Hashem handpicks which parents will be given which children, knowing that they can (usually) guide them in what they need in their lives. When parents need guidance themselves (as no human being is perfect and knows all the answers), they know to go to those who are wiser and daven for siyatta diShmaya to help them make the right decision.
Responses to teasing will be discussed in next week’s column, iy”H.