“My daughter's ex best friend has turned against her.”
Dear Annie,My 13 year old daughter (Jane) had become very depressed and actually suicidal. We immediately got professional help for her and she was diagnosed with a mood disorder akin to bipolar 2. She was honest with her "best friend" (Betty) and believed that she would be supportive. Instead, Betty began gossiping about Jane. Then she sent my daughter an E-mail in which her father called Jane crazy. Needless to say, Jane's depression worsened and her anxiety attacks became so profound that despite regular counseling and adjustment of meds she couldn't go to school.
So now Betty has spread through out the school that Jane had to leave school because of pregnancy and numerous other disgusting accusations. Now Jane is being shunned by all except one guy friend. (Keep in mind, for the past several months, since the depression and anxiety first began, we never leave Jane alone... not even to go to the grocery.) The cruelty of these teens is absolutely mind boggling.
The principal and counselor at the school seem to have the attitude that kids will be kids. Jane is totally terrified of the idea of me talking with Betty's parents. I am at wits end and after months of suicide watch and watching my precious, creative daughter become ashen with grief I have become too angry to even sleep. What else can I do?
Dear Jane's Mom,
What you've described is heart-breaking on so many levels. I'll cut to the chase here and give you my comments and recommendations.
- Make sure that your daughter is no longer receiving ANY communication from kids who would demean her. That means you have to check that she's not getting any emails, IMs, text messages, etc. She's very vulnerable and any addition "jabs" would be like salt in a wound.
- Is Jane currently seeing a counselor in addition to the meds she's taking? I certainly hope so, because your daughter has been traumatized by all of this and it's very important that she have the opportunity to talk with a therapist about her feelings and be given coping tools for putting this in perspective. Also, since you say that you are so angry that you're having trouble sleeping, I would suggest that you talk with a therapist as well. When someone in the family is attacked and made to suffer in this way, the whole family suffers... as you have experienced. Please take care of yourself as well as your daughter.
- Find a new school for Jane. Even if Betty apologizes, the damage has been done and it's not likely that Jane will ever feel "safe" and accepted in the old school. She needs a place where she can, when she's ready, start fresh.
- Definitely talk to Betty's parents. If your daughter had perpetrated this onslaught wouldn't you want to know about it so that you could educate her about compassion, kindness, friendship? Of course you would! By not talking to Betty's parents you are depriving them of a golden opportunity to be effective parents. They need to know what has happened here. I understand that Jane is fearful of any backlash from Betty if you talk to her parents, but tell her you'll support her IF that happens. In the meantime, it's your responsibility as a parent to talk to Betty's parents.
- The principal's attitude and that of the counselor are, frankly, unimaginable in this day and age. With so much information out there about bullying and about teen depression it's unbelievable to hear of a middle school administrator and a counselor who are essentially saying, "that's the way it goes." I'm stunned! My strong suggestion is that you meet with them and make as strong a case as you can for some school wide education in the areas of depression and bullying (and rumors and harassment are absolutely a part of that). They should bring in an outside speaker and address the issues head on.
Those are my recommendations.