Dear Readers: Every year during this time I step away from my column to work on other creative projects. I hope you enjoy these (edited) “Best Of” Q&As from 10 years ago.
Today’s topic is: Adolescence.
I also invite readers to subscribe to my weekly “Asking Amy” newsletter, at Amydickinson.substack.com, where I post a favorite Q&A, as well as commentary about what I’m reading, watching, and listening to.
I’ll be back with fresh columns in two weeks.
Dear Amy: I am in seventh grade. I am Jewish. I have a friend in the same grade. His locker is next to mine. We have fun and he makes me laugh, but he makes fun of me a lot, too.
Sometimes he says that I’m fat, but most of the time he makes fun of me because I’m Jewish.
For example, today we were goofing around, and a friend of his said, “What’s going on?” and he said, “She was being Jewish.” This really hurt my feelings. He has said that kind of stuff before, and I hate it.
I have tried to get him to stop. Sometimes when I tell him to stop making fun of me, he says stuff like, “But you make fun of me, too.” I don’t make fun of him like that.
I told him I didn’t like it when he made fun of me for being Jewish, and he stopped for about a day. My mom knows that he has done this a few times, but I haven’t told her that he does it almost every day.
I would feel safe telling a teacher, but I don’t want to lose him as a friend. We have almost all of our classes together. It might make things worse if I tell. But sometimes I want to cry when he makes fun of me.
— A Seventh-grader
Dear Seventh-grader: There is a difference between having fun and “making fun of.” Friends goof around and occasionally tease each other. But it’s never OK to criticize someone’s body, race, ethnicity, or religion, even as a joke. That’s not friendly teasing that’s bullying. If you’re afraid to tell an adult because you think it might make things worse, then that’s a sign that this kid is a bully-in-training.
You can say to him, “Stop making fun of me and my religion. What you’re doing is mean, and I want you to stop. It’s NOT funny.”
Give him another chance to change, and then you really should go to a teacher. He needs to know that this is offensive, and NOT OK. You could help to protect yourself – and another student – by standing up to him.
Dear Amy: My 10-year-old son does well in groups such as Scouts and team sports, but he doesn’t have any friends.
He’s reluctant to invite people over and has started to pull away from the few boys who want to hang out with him.
If this is bothering him, he’s not showing it, and he won’t discuss it with me. He’s a bit of an odd duck, and I’m afraid he’ll be picked on in middle school if he doesn’t have friends.
Should I leave him to figure this out on his own, or is this something to be concerned about?
— Concerned Mom
Dear Mom: It is not your job to provide friends for your son. Instead, make sure he has the tools necessary to form relationships and make friends.
Some children seem to thrive being part of a group, while others can feel overwhelmed by the challenges and stimulation of maintaining multiple relationships.
Your son may have a quirky and quieter temperament. You shouldn’t telegraph your anxiety, but you should speak to his teacher, his Scout leader and his coach.
They may report that he does just fine in a more structured peer group overseen by an adult, but that he is out of his element on the playground. Or they may suggest he be evaluated for a more serious problem that may be emerging in adolescence.
I once heard psychologist Michael Thompson speak about childhood group dynamics. He said that parents often want their children to have lots of friends, but really, it only takes one friend to make a child feel he belongs. Your son may be a “one friend” kind of kid, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Read Thompson’s book, “Best Friends, Worst Enemies: Understanding the Social Lives of Children” (2002, Ballantine Books).
(You can email Amy Dickinson at email@example.com or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)
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