Bullies May Be Making Your Kid Ditch Their School Lunches

Thanks to widespread bullying prevention and awareness, schools, kids, and parents know to be on the lookout for kids who show obvious signs of bullying. But a new trend is spreading across schools that might be harder for teachers and parents to spot: Kids who feel bullied into skipping lunch or eating less than they want.

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But is this kind of bullying really anything new? Teenage girls fat shaming is a tradition as old as bra stuffing. Not that boys are totally immune to eating disorders, but girls have always feared that packing on pounds would come with a healthy side of social consequence. Is that bullying or just our culture of beauty worship?

That's not in any way a defense for anyone pressuring kids into going hungry. But let's not deny that kids -- especially in their tweens and teens -- don't feel a tremendous amount of pressure to look a very certain way, regardless of how ridiculous, unattainable, or unhealthy it might be to get there. And some kids are more susceptible to social influence than others.

More from The Stir: Letting My Kids Eat School Lunch Makes Me Feel Like a Bad Mom

Sure we could ask schools to more closely monitor kids' lunchtime consumption, but is that really a sensible or effective solution? When we over-police kids' interactions, the message we're sending them is that bullying is something that happens outside of you and that it's something beyond their own control. And make no mistake, that can be the case. But not always.

We need to prepare our kids to survive in the world, and unfortunately the world is full of bullies who want to control and take advantage of you. That's just the breaks. And anyone under any illusion that high school graduation puts an end to ridiculous social pressures needs to think again.

We need to build strong kids who love themselves enough not to let a bunch of punks define who they are. School is fraught with a litany of humiliations and anxieties, just like life. Let's talk to our kids and help them put all of it into context. Let's ask our kids what they ate for lunch and give them the safe space they need to admit they trashed it and drank water instead, because that's what the cool kids are doing.

And then let's sit them down, brush the hair out of their face, look in their eyes, and tell them about their strong, beautiful bodies that we love and cherish and want them to feed and take care of. Tell them how precious they are to you. How valuable they are. Because that's really all that matters.

Then kiss them on the head and hug them. Because school is hard, growing up is hard. And stepping back to let kids work stuff out for themselves is hard for parents. We want to fix everything for them. But protecting our kids from every pitfall denies them the coping skills they're going to need to succeed, and compete, as adults. And honey, there's plenty of pressure to skip lunch as an adult. And skinny jeans for days.

Then take them to the store and help them find the healthiest lunch options imaginable. And send them back into that cafeteria the next day with their head held high and a lunch to die for. That's all we can do. The rest has to be up to them.

 

Image via © Pascal Broze/Onoky/Corbis

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