DEAR HARRIETTE: I am a mother of two boys; my youngest is 8 years old, and the older one is 13. I have noticed that my middle-school-age son has been coming home from baseball practice very upset the past couple of months. My husband and I approached him about the situation and learned he has been getting bullied by the team. He is in seventh grade, and I am not quite sure how to handle this situation. I don’t know how involved I should get, or what is appropriate to say to the coach. I don’t want to embarrass him, but I also don’t want my son to feel the way he has been feeling lately. -- Intervening Mother, Denver
DEAR INTERVENING MOTHER: This is a tricky age for children. On one hand, they are learning to be more independent and discovering how to fend for themselves. On the other, they remain vulnerable to their peers' bad behavior and don’t always have the tools to take care of themselves through challenging situations.
Before intervening at the school, try coaching your son. Get him to open up to you even more so that you can learn exactly what the other students are doing and saying to him and how he is responding. If possible, suggest actions that he can take to stand up for himself without putting him in harm’s way.
Should none of those measures work, tell him that you plan to speak to his baseball coach. (You want to avoid any surprises.) Then request a private meeting where you outline what you have observed about your son’s mood as well as the reports he has shared with you about the other students. Ask for the coach’s help in rectifying this situation. Make it clear that you do not want your involvement to cause your son embarrassment, but you need him to feel safe.