Ryan Suffern, 8, has written to Santa asking him to save his twin sister from bullying. His letter started off in the general manner asking for the types of gifts that a normal eight year old would ask for. Then he went on to tell Santa that the kids at school constantly bully his sister, Amber, at school. He continued, saying it’s not fair. He told Santa that he already prayed for it stop but God is busy and needs his help.
Karen Suffern, the twins’ mother, is a single and struggling mom. She wanted to find out early what the kids would like for Christmas because they are getting older and she knew the gifts would be expensive. She thought if she started now preparing for Christmas she would have enough time to save up for her children’s request.
Well to her surprise her son asked for more than money could buy. He wants the kids at school to leave his sister alone.
Suffern said tears instantly filled her eyes as she read Ryan’s letter. She said she constantly tries to build up her daughter’s self-esteem; she always tells her how beautiful she is. Suffern said people say mean things to her as well because she has a weight problem. She says she knows how much it hurts her so she can imagine what her child has to endure at school.
She felt that Amber was probably getting teased on the bus but had no idea how severe the bullying actually was. Amber is about 140 pounds and is an emotional eater. She’s almost double her brother’s size. Amber has been diagnosed with attention-deficit disorder and has other mental issues which cause her to be very moody. She has never spoken to her mother about the bullying.
The twins attend Rocky Mount Preparatory School in North Carolina. This is the first time that the two of them have had the same classes. Ryan would tell him mom in secret about the bullying. He told her when they are in gym class the kids laugh when she has a hard time performing some of the activities. They make negative comments constantly about her weight and even say that she’s adopted because she is multi-racial.
Suffern says every day Amber asks if she can stay home from school; she never wants to go. Since reading Ryan’s letter to Santa, Suffern says she feels like she isn’t protecting her daughter. She says she feels horrible sending her out to be picked on; it’s as if she’s letting her down. She knows that bullying is a very serious problem and something has to be done to stop it.
A study was recently released stating that children who are victims of bullying tend to suffer from bad grades, low self-worth, and even physical and mental health problems. The study confirmed a definite connection in children and adolescents between being bullied and psychosomatic problems.
When a child has recurring physical health symptoms like sleeping disorders, headaches, loss of appetite, bed wetting or stomach aches, these issues should be discussed with a pediatrician as soon as possible. They may be signs of bullying and not just physical ailments.
Parents should also reach out to the school for assistance because the negative effects of bullying have been known to cause depression and even suicide. The earlier bullying is detected and addressed the sooner the child can receive the intervention they so desperately need and deserve.
Many studies have indicated that at least one in every four children is a victim of some type of bullying. The internet is flooded with recent stories of children who took their own lives because of the devastation and despair involved with being bullied. With social media constantly on the rise many are now recipients of cyber bullying.
Suffern said that her son’s letter has awakened her to the severity of Amber’s situation and she will be speaking to the teacher and parents of the kids that are causing her daughter so much pain.
She says she’s taught her children to be respectful of others and expects other parents to have done the same. Ryan and Amber have pointed at others and asked about their hair or color and things like that and she explained to them that people are just different; not better or less – just different.
Suffern says bullying comes in many different forms and she hopes the school will intervene and help lighten the emotional load her daughter has to carry. Education is important and she wants Amber to like school.
Suffern says she’s very happy to have such a selfless and caring son like Ryan. She knows he’s looking out for his sister and now so will Santa.
By: Cherese Jackson (Virginia)