Asking for Santa's help: Sibling love rivals school bullying

National

Asking for Santa's help: Sibling love rivals school bullying

Posted:

(CNN) -- For many families, the school year just started, but for Karen Suffern, it's not too early to start planning for Christmas.

The financially struggling single mother of fraternal twins recently asked her 8-year-olds to write down a list of things they would like from Santa. Suffern, who works part time as an administrative assistant for a home health care company, wanted to start budgeting for the holidays. She knew her twins, who just began third grade, were at the age where they would start asking for electronics and other expensive gifts.

Her son, Ryan's, letter to Santa started off normally:

"Dear Santa ... I wanted a (remote control) car and helicopter, but I don't want that anymor. Kid at school are still picking on Amber and its not fair," he wrote. "I prayed that they will stop but god is bisy and needs your help."

Suffern felt tears fill her eyes as she read her son's letter asking Santa to help stop the bullying his overweight sister was experiencing at school.

Reading the letter was tough for Suffern. "I try to build up my daughter's self-esteem and tell her she is beautiful, but people say hurtful things to me, because I also have a weight problem, and that hurts me," she said. "I can't imagine what she goes through."

She had a vague idea that Amber was teased on the bus, but she didn't know the extent of the bullying. Amber, who has attention-deficit (hyperactivity) disorder and other mental and mood disorders, never mentioned the teasing.

Suffern explains that Amber is an emotional eater and weighs 140 pounds, nearly twice the size of her brother, Ryan.

The twins returned to school three weeks ago at Rocky Mount Academy in North Carolina. It's the first time Ryan and Amber have been in the same classes.

Ryan would come up to Suffern to tell her in private about classmates bullying Amber -- how the kids in gym class would laugh at her when she could not do the bear crawl on the floor, tease her about her weight in class or tell her that she was adopted because she is multiracial.

"Every day when she goes to school, she says, 'Mommy, can I just stay at home?' and she just doesn't want to go.' And now every time I send her to school, I feel like I am not protecting her and I am letting her down," Suffern said.

After reading her son's letter over the weekend, Suffern shared it online with friends, including Tony Posnanski's Facebook page, where he features stories of inspiration, weight loss and life advice.

Posnanski says he was moved by Ryan's letter because it reminded him of his childhood. "When I was a kid, I was bullied for a bit" because of his weight, he explained. Posnanski posted the story to CNN iReport, where it quickly garnered thousands of page views.

"I wanted to do something to get (the story) out," Posnanki said, adding that bullying is a serious issue that deserves attention.

A study released Monday in the journal Pediatrics says there is an association between being bullied and psychosomatic problems, meaning children who are bullied run the risk of higher mental problems that can cause them physical distress. Study authors Gianluca Gini and Tiziana Pozzoli write, "Given that school bullying is a widespread phenomenon in many countries around the world, the present results indicate that bullying should be considered a significant international public health problem."

Others studies report that as many as one in four children is bullied. There have been several incidents of teens bullied to the point of committing suicide, most recently 15-year-old Rebecca Sedwick, who jumped off a building because of cyberbullying.

Suffern says Ryan's letter to Santa sheds new light on her daughter's situation, and she plans on speaking to Amber's teachers and the parents of the bullies at school.

"If my kids don't call names and pick on others, I would expect other parents to teach their kids to be respectful, too," she said. "There have been times my kids would point at others and say, 'why is her hair so strange' and things like that, and I would say, 'You know, people are different, and that is just the way they are.' "

She says it's important to realize that bullying comes in all sorts of forms. "I understand that sometimes schools try to do as much as they can, but bullying doesn't have to physical; name-calling and putting someone down are considered bullying to me."

And Suffern says she is glad to have a selfless son like Ryan -- plus Santa -- watching out for Amber, too.

 

  • Email Alert Sign Up

    Sign up here to receive breaking news stories from KSWT.com and morning updates to your email inbox.

    * denotes required fields


    Thank you for signing up! You will receive a confirmation email shortly.
Go to KSWT-TV's Facebook page
  • Most Popular StoriesMost Popular StoriesMore>>

  • Solar Wind Energy Tower, Inc. Agrees to Accept up to $100 Million Additional Financing from Arizona Alternative Energy Center, LLC for San Luis, Arizona Tower

    Solar Wind Energy Tower, Inc. Agrees to Accept up to $100 Million Additional Financing from Arizona Alternative Energy Center, LLC for San Luis, Arizona Tower

    ANNAPOLIS, MD / ACCESSWIRE / July 14, 2014 / Solar Wind Energy Tower, Inc. (OTCQB: SWET), (the “Company”), the inventor of large Solar Wind Downdraft Tower structures capable of producing abundant,...More >>
    ANNAPOLIS, MD / ACCESSWIRE / July 14, 2014 / Solar Wind Energy Tower, Inc. (OTCQB: SWET), (the “Company”), the inventor of large Solar Wind Downdraft Tower structures capable of producing abundant, inexpensive...More >>
  • Professor charged with taping students in bathroom

    Professor charged with taping students in bathroom

    An accounting professor with secretly taping students in his San Francisco apartment's bathroom.More >>
    An accounting professor with secretly taping students in his San Francisco apartment's bathroom.More >>
  • Father beats accused child abuser, Daytona police say

    Father beats accused child abuser, Daytona police say

    Police say a Daytona Beach father beat an 18-year-old man unconscious after finding him sexually abusing his son. Authorities say the father called 911 early Friday after he walked in on the alleged abuse.Frolander motionless on the living room floor. He had several knots on his face and was bleeding from the mouth. Police said the father -- who was not identified -- told investigators he walked in as Frolander was abusing the boy. Police did not release the boy's age, but Frolander is charge...More >>
    Police say a Daytona Beach father beat an 18-year-old man unconscious after finding him sexually abusing his son. Authorities say the father called 911 early Friday after he walked in on the alleged abuse.Frolander motionless on the living room floor. He had several knots on his face and was bleeding from the mouth. Police said the father -- who was not identified -- told investigators he walked in as Frolander was abusing the boy. Police did not release the boy's age, but Frolander is charge...More >>
  • Drought starting to kill salmon in Klamath Basin

    Drought starting to kill salmon in Klamath Basin

    Low warm water conditions from the drought are starting to kill salmon in Northern California's Klamath Basin - the site of a massive fish kill in 2002.More >>
    Low warm water conditions from the drought are starting to kill salmon in Northern California's Klamath Basin - the site of a massive fish kill in 2002.More >>
  • Mom accused of leaving kids in car ordered held

    Mom accused of leaving kids in car ordered held

    A mother charged with leaving two toddlers in a car while she gambled at a Northern California casino has been ordered held by a judge who deemed her a flight risk.More >>
    A mother charged with leaving two toddlers in a car while she gambled at a Northern California casino has been ordered held by a judge who deemed her a flight risk.More >>
  • National

    Obama warns of delay in social sec. checks and veteran's benefits

    Obama warns of delay in social sec. checks and veteran's benefits

    Web Producer: Lucy Valencia, Assignment Desk Editor WASHINGTON (AP) -- Declaring "we are not a deadbeat nation," President Obama warned on Monday that Social Security checks and veterans' benefits willMore >>
    Declaring "we are not a deadbeat nation," President Obama warned on Monday that Social Security checks and veterans' benefits will be delayed if congressional Republicans fail to increase the government's borrowing authority in a looming showdown over the nation's debt and spending.More >>
  • Coming soon...Wal-Mart

    Coming soon...Wal-Mart

    On Wednesday the Yuma City Council voted to change the zoning designation on the proposed land acquired by Wal-Mart. The property located near the intersection of Avenue B and 8th Street was the home of a mobile home park as zones for residential use; the new designation changes that to mixed which will allow the new store to move in to the property. The new store will be the fifth Wal-Mart for Yuma County.More >>
    On Wednesday the Yuma City Council voted to change the zoning designation on the proposed land acquired by Wal-Mart. The property located near the intersection of Avenue B and 8th Street was the home of a mobile home park as zones for residential use; the new designation changes that to mixed which will allow the new store to move in to the property. The new store will be the fifth Wal-Mart for Yuma County.More >>
  • Latest polls show Ducey and Jones neck and neck for Republican slot

    Latest polls show Ducey and Jones neck and neck for Republican slot

    According to the latest poll from Veterans for a Strong America Arizona Treasurer Doug Ducey leads the pack at 23 percent, he's being followed closely by former Counsel for GoDaddy Christine Jones who received 21 percent of the poll. The poll listed 22 percent of participants as undecided. According to the same poll the biggest issues concerning the state were listed as healthcare and education. Another poll conducted in late June by Harper Polling showed Ducey as the favorite at 33 percent a...More >>
    According to the latest poll from Veterans for a Strong America Arizona Treasurer Doug Ducey leads the pack at 23 percent, he's being followed closely by former Counsel for GoDaddy Christine Jones who received 21 percent of the poll. The poll listed 22 percent of participants as undecided. According to the same poll the biggest issues concerning the state were listed as healthcare and education. Another poll conducted in late June by Harper Polling showed Ducey as the favorite at 33 percent a...More >>