My Sister Is Being Bullied at School. Should I Intervene?

Health & Wellbeing

A reader seeks advice on how to deal with mean girls.

I am a senior at a private high school in New York City. My younger sister is in the ninth grade there. We are among very few Black students at school, and we’re both enrolled on scholarships. I heard recently, then saw for myself, that my sister is being bullied by a group of girls in her class. When I talked to her about it, she was really upset, but she made me promise not to tell our mom. (The bullies were teasing her about her coat and her hair.) I was also bullied when I started at the school, but it stopped after a while. I’m not sure whether to get involved or to let my sister work it out for herself. What do you think?


You may not like my advice: Tell your mother (or another adult family member) about the bullying right away. I get that you promised your sister you wouldn’t, but the stakes are too high here. You can be extra supportive of her, but I don’t think you can assess the seriousness of this problem on your own. Bullying can leave lasting scars and even lead to tragic results in some cases.

This may sound like an overreaction to you. You handled your bullies on your own, after all. But your sister is not you. We don’t know how distraught she is or whether she can resolve this issue herself. She needs an adult who can help. (Some of what you describe sounds like racial taunting and should be addressed by a school administrator.) If she’s angry with you for breaking your promise, apologize and explain that her safety is the most important thing.

Now, I know firsthand it can be really embarrassing for young people to have their parents know they’re being bullied. But your mom loves you both. She’s not going to think less of your sister because of the bullying; hopefully, she can help stop it. Your sister is lucky to have you!

Miguel Porlan

I work at a nonprofit organization that provides health care to low-income individuals and families. I love my job and my colleagues! The problem? We are inundated with nonstop employee meetings from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day. This pushes our individual work for clients well into the evening. Last week, I got an email from a co-worker at midnight! I don’t want to work around the clock. May I raise this concern with my supervisor?



I think you should. But keep the discussion focused on your personal experience. No need to generalize about co-workers or office culture. Start by telling your supervisor that you really like your job. Then ask for help with time management. That’s one of her (or his) responsibilities.

It sounds as though your office — like many — has become lazy about meetings: calling too many of them and including too many participants. (How else could you be in so many hours of them every week?) Before you talk with your boss, keep a tally of the meetings that were useful to you and those that might have been memos instead.

Then share your schedule with your supervisor. This may help you create a blueprint, together, for better use of your time. If your boss is not sympathetic, you will have to create a daily stopping point for yourself. I know how hard it is to log out (and stay logged out) of work, but you’ll burn out eventually if you don’t.

I befriended a co-worker years ago. We don’t work together anymore, but we keep in touch. I also know his brother. When their mother died, I went to her funeral. Afterward, I offered my condolences to my friend and his brother. But I didn’t say anything to their siblings. I’d never met them. Was that wrong or petty of me?


Don’t beat yourself up! You did what felt comfortable to you in the moment. I’m sure your friend and his brother appreciate your kindness. If there was a receiving line after the funeral, it would have been nice to pay your respects to the siblings you didn’t know, too. Frankly, though, the day will probably be a fog of grief to them, and they won’t remember much about strangers who spoke to them (or didn’t).

Four of us, including my adult daughter, are traveling to France. The woman who organized the trip is admittedly frugal and likes to travel more economically than I do. I respect this. We won’t eat every meal together, but we will sometimes. How should we split the cost of these meals? (I will pay for my daughter.)


Contact the woman who organized the trip before you leave. Agreeing how to divide checks is best done in advance. Suggest separate checks for you and your daughter at shared meals, so that she and the fourth traveler will not underwrite any extra expense you incur. I can’t imagine an objection. Then she and the fourth person can work out how to allocate their checks on their own.

For help with your awkward situation, send a question to [email protected], to Philip Galanes on Facebook or @SocialQPhilip on Twitter.


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