Dear Rhonda and Dr. Cheri,
My grandma is writing this letter for me because kids are bullying me about being poor.
I’m 7. My mommy was murdered when I was really little. I don’t remember much about it.
I had lots of fun and lots of friends. Grammy says we lived in the projects. We had a fun playground. Everyone was nice to me.
When Mommy died, I came to live with Grammy.
Kids at my new school are mean to me. They laugh at me and make fun of my clothes. The bullies tell lies about me and said my mommy was poor so she could get free food.
They made up a song about me, “Poor girl, poor girl, bless her little heart, girl” or, “Dirty girl, dirty girl, bless her dirty little heart.” Grammy says the kids say “Bless her heart” to be mean, but it should be nice. I don’t like it here.
My granddaughter is sweet, innocent, and good. My heart is broken.
It’s wonderful that after losing her mom, in a traumatic act of violence, that you’re there to console, care, and help strengthen your granddaughter.
Help her learn that poverty is not a sin and she may overcome shame, blame, humiliation, and bullying with your loving guidance.
No one deserves to experience this maltreatment, least of all, our kids. Help her to understand that poverty can be caused be external influences like disasters, diseases, crimes, abuse, addiction, violence, financial losses, imprisonment, and mental illness.
These reasons can make the poverty of our souls feel worse than the literal deficiencies we may experience as individuals, families, and communities.
Those who believe that people who are “without” must be unworthy and deserve to be humiliated and condemned need to learn and gain empathy.
Young children often repeat what they hear from adults or other children and may have learned it’s easier to try to take dignity than to give dignity.
Teach dignity through activities such as:
1) Helping her to stop verbal bullying by standing tall, having eye contact and walking away from the bullies. The exchange of verbal abuse stops when there’s no ball to banter back and forth.
2) Find a friend for your granddaughter in your neighborhood and have them start an empathy project such as writing notes of care, positive thoughts, and compliments to pass out at school.
At this time, there’s a lack of awareness on the part of your granddaughter’s comprehension of your daughter’s murder. When the reality of her mother’s violent death surfaces, therapy for PTSD may become important, as will a support system.
Rhonda and Dr. Cheri