My daughter is made fun of, talked about behind her back at school

Dear Troubleshooter:

I’m a woman in my 40s. My daughter told me that she doesn’t want to go to school anymore. It was shortly after she started her second year of junior high school and had told me happily that she had made friends in class.

When I asked her what happened, she said some students made fun of her appearance and more. She also told me in tears that they talked about her behind her back, calling her “in-kya,” which is a term to describe someone with a dark character.

Recently, she said she cares about what people around her think and becomes scared simply by seeing students talk in a group. She wonders if they are speaking badly about her.

I talked with her homeroom teacher, but my daughter said she doesn’t want to make this a big deal. Every morning, she goes to school looking depressed, and now avoids talking about school. I am very worried that the situation will escalate and lead to bullying or truancy.

— J, Hiroshima Prefecture

Dear Ms. J:

Friendships among junior high school students are quite difficult, and in recent years there have been some terrible cases of bullying. Your daughter seems to be coping well, so you should do your utmost to protect her to ensure the situation doesn’t get worse.

First, continue to assure your daughter that she isn’t at fault. Please also tell her that it’s OK to take a day off if she feels uncomfortable.

Life is not only about facing difficult situations. Sometimes we need to run away from them. However, we must never run from protecting ourselves. Proposing changing schools could also be an option.

I think it was good that you spoke with the homeroom teacher, but sometimes there are limits to what a school can do. Please try to encourage your daughter to speak with a counselor about her concerns. There are community organizations that provide support for young people. Your daughter may gain the strength to move forward if she can discuss her feelings.

Your daughter needs to know she is accepted as she is. What you can do is to be there to assure and protect her.

— Masami Ohinata, university president