DEAR ABBY: I was deeply touched by the letter from "Fed Up in Fort Myers, Fla.," regarding a young girl affected by her mother's bulimia. The children at school call her cruel names, and so does her mother.
Eating disorders are widespread illnesses that affect all segments of society. They may affect not only the body, but also the mind -- and appropriate treatment is necessary.
Abby, I would like to invite your readers to contact the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD) for free resources and referrals.
Through our hotline and response to mail and e-mail inquiries, ANAD provides counsel and information to thousands of anorexics, bulimics, compulsive eaters, their families, and also the health-care community in all parts of the globe. Our referral list includes more than 1,500 therapists and inpatient/outpatient programs in the United States, Canada and several other countries, including Great Britain, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, France, Italy, Spain, Mexico, Colombia and more. -- VIVIAN HANSON MEEHAN, PRESIDENT, ANAD
DEAR VIVIAN: Thank you for the information. After I printed the letter from "Fed Up," I received hundreds of others from readers of both sexes peppering me with questions about eating disorders.
Readers, if you or someone you know needs help or information, ANAD can be contacted by phone: (847) 831-3438; fax: (847) 433-4632; e-mail: anad20(at)aol.com; or the Web site: www.anad.org. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: I would like to comment on the letter from "Fed Up," the 13-year-old girl whose mother is bulimic and who is ridiculed in school by other kids because she is overweight.
I was trained in another country to become a teacher. Our psychology teacher explained to us that, since parents cannot be present in school to protect their children, it is therefore the teachers' and the principal's full responsibility to protect the students from physical and emotional abuse by other students.
I am one of many educators who believe that it is the parents' responsibility to discipline their children and teach them proper social conduct. That said, this is how I handle my responsibility:
Every year on the first day of school I present the rules of conduct in my class to the new students. I tell them that I expect everyone to behave and respect each other.
I tell them that I am well aware that some children like to call names and hurt other children's feelings, but I do not tolerate this kind of behavior. I say, "If anyone hits you or hurts your feelings -- tell me immediately." I will call the parents of the abusive student and tell them what their child did, and that I will not admit their child in my class the next day unless accompanied by one of his/her parents. I expect the parent to sit in our classroom the entire day and make sure that his/her child does not hurt anyone.
I then ask the students, "How many of you think your mother or father will have the time to sit in our class the whole day?" No one raises a hand. No student ever dares to abuse another student in my class.
I hope that child's letter will cause people to think and change the discipline policies that exist in many U.S. schools -- and I hope that other caring teachers and principals will follow my psychology teacher's instructions and prevent abusive students from hurting helpless students. -- RETIRED TEACHER IN ATLANTA
DEAR TEACHER: If there were more teachers like you, I would not receive the hundreds of heartbreaking letters I do from students who are harassed, bullied and taunted by their classmates. Orchids to you.