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Agony Aunt

How can you help your child through bullying, persuade a teenager to have a healthier diet or know when it’s time to have corrective surgery for a congenital defect? First Eleven’s agony aunt Victoria Lambert consults a panel of health experts


at his boarding school but his teachers think he is being over-sensitive and are not being supportive. I know my son is young for his age (a July birthday) and yes, he is a gentle soul, but do I really have to tell him to shut up and put up? Or, worse still, learn to give as good as he gets. Didn’t these ideas go out with the ark?

Sally, Oxfordshire


Dr Gummer: When your

child is at boarding school,

these dilemmas can seem more acute. Parents often feel less in control and find it difficult to keep a sense of perspective. Make sure you are not being over-protective which can compound a child’s victim mentality, making them more likely to be bullied. Is he complaining of being bullied to get your attention? Very occasionally, a school or teacher is reluctant to admit to a problem, particularly if the bullying child is having


Sue Morris is a practising educational psychologist with a special interest in child and adolescent mental health. She is a lecturer, teacher and researcher at the University of Birmingham’s School of Education.

I am very concerned that my son is being bullied



My 12-year-old son has rather prominent

ears. He and his father have refused to consider surgery but I think he is the right age now. How can I convince them both – and should I?

Julia, Surrey

Victoria Lambert: If

neither your son nor

his father think his ears are a problem, you should be pleased. It sounds like your son’s self-esteem is great. By insisting on an operation to pin them back, you could actually make him more self-conscious. Having said that, will his attitude change as he ages and girls start to matter to him?

some problems of their own – like parents going through a divorce or a recent death. I don’t advocate the ‘put

up and shut up’ solution. Paying undue attention to a playground spat and treating it as bullying gives your child a sense of power and is likely to reinforce their behaviour as

Peter Butler: I would never advise you to persuade a child to have an operation but if they are worried about it and are perhaps being teased at school, then I would recommend any age after six. By then, a child can be involved in the decision-making process and any risks associated with anaesthesia are very low. Prominent ear correction,

or otoplasty, is a plastic surgical operation to change the appearance of a person’s external ears, involving reshaping and reducing the projection of the external ear. The operation is usually performed under general anaesthesia but

they see a positive outcome. Assuming that the school isn’t trying to cover things up, and that your child isn’t using this as an attention-seeking tool, the following might help to reduce bullying. Adopt a two-pronged

approach: try to understand why the bully is doing this, while


Lucy Jones is a specialist NHS dietitian registered with the Health Professions Council. She advises on healthy eating and is the media spokesman for the London branch of the British Dietetic Association.

can be performed under local anaesthesia or local anaesthesia and sedation. Usually it is treated as day surgery but sometimes children stay overnight. The two-hour procedure involves making an incision behind the ear. The cartilage of the ear can be reshaped or removed to create a more normal curve or bend. The wound is usually closed with dissolvable sutures and a bulky ear dressing is applied to protect the ear after surgery which is left in place for a week. The child is advised to wear a head sweatband at night to protect the ear for another three to four weeks after the operation.

at the same time empower your child. Some people are more likely to be victims of bullying than others, so there is a high chance that even if the current bullying stops, your son will encounter other potential bullies in his life and so needs to learn how to deal with them. If the school hasn’t


Peter Butler is Professor of Plastic Surgery, University College London; Medical Director of Surgery and Interventional Sciences, Royal Free Hospital; Lead of the UK Facial Transplantation Team; and Co-founder of the London Plastic Surgery Associates.


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