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Ask Ellie: It takes a communal effort to battle bullying in school

Being left out of a party can be devastating to a child
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Advice columnist Ellie Tesher says it takes a community to combat bullying among students, by speaking to the parents, school authorities, and the relevant teachers.

Dear Ellie: I’m a guy, 18, in first-year university. I recently returned home for a few days, studying and getting over a mild cold. One afternoon, the bell rang, and it was a friend of my little sister’s.

She handed me a package and told me to give it to “Sarah” for her to wear “to the party.” I looked at her funny and said that “Sarah” lives four houses down the road. She laughed and ran away with the package.

When my mom came home from work, I told her what happened. She was appalled! Apparently, the girl who’d come over was having a party and my sister wasn’t invited.

Her “accidental” drop-off was meant as a taunt for my sister!

I’m so mad, and feel so badly for my sister.

What should we do about this?

Big Brother

(P.S. I changed the kid’s name on purpose.)

You’ve already learned a great deal more about decency and fairness than that younger girl who “taunted” your sister. By not giving “Sarah’s” real name you purposely chose to not out her publicly, despite your anger at her meanness towards your sister.

(By the way, I, too, don’t name people in this column. It’s people’s relationship behaviour that matters).

Meanwhile, your younger sister, whom you obviously care about a lot, has to deal with this blatant insult. Due to a forthcoming party that includes other girls she’ll know and likely sees regularly at school, leaving her out is tantamount to bullying.

Why? When everyone present realizes that she’s not included, the question, “why not?” will be raised. OR, all the other guests already know this was done purposefully.

You’re the lead in recognizing how devastating this exclusion can feel to a young girl. Still, I believe that you should involve your mother, if possible, in the next step to resolving this mean-spirited matter.

She should approach the girl’s parents, along with you, so that the information you repeat are the exact words the girl presented to you, laughing then running away.

If told matter-of-factly, with concern for both your sister and the neighbour’s daughter — because bullying gets known and dealt with by the school — hopefully the mother will talk to her daughter about this and insist on inviting your sister.

If it’s too late for the party, it’s even more important that the incident’s addressed — both to the girl’s parents and the school, especially to the teachers at school who may have already noticed this behaviour.

Reader’s commentary regarding the mother and her daughter, both heartbroken over her boyfriend’s blatant cheating at a party with a colleague (Nov. 10):

“I agree with the advice that the best this mother can do is to simply support her daughter who’s now lost self-confidence and is battling depression while he insists that he still loves her.

“The mother says of the distraught young woman, “She’s getting stronger daily.” So, it’s time for the mother to place more emphasis on this positive view.

“I also suggest that both mother and daughter take a look at the bigger picture: Since the couple are “both in their 20s,” they are still maturing.

“This shocking event for her daughter will become a major life lesson as she continues to mature and applies her eye-opening experience to future relationships.

“Consider how many people, unfortunately, learn this lesson later in life, sometimes when young children are involved in the aftermath.”

Dear Ellie: I’m furious and devastated after I just ordered my presumed partner to leave forever. He’d wooed me with “love” words and flowers, and convinced me to sell my condo and buy another with him so we’d share the future. I’m 40, he’s 52, and a liar.

Three weeks after moving in, the flowers stopped coming, and he stopped being loving and attentive. He called me a “nag” after I asked him to please clean after himself in the washroom we share. He’s been treating me like the “little woman” he can just push around.

So, I ordered him out after calling my lawyer. Now there’ll be financial problems and ugly statements ahead.

How do I get through this without losing my mind?

Second Time Around

Get your information and supports in order: the legal documents needed, your financial accounts, your banking situation regarding any loans. Add a therapist to help you stay on track and talk out your feelings.

Ellie’s tip of the day

It takes a community to combat bullying among students, by speaking to the parents, school authorities, and the relevant teachers.

Send relationship questions to ellie@thestar.ca.

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