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Dear Abby 4/11

Intervention is needed now to stop bully's assaults

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Posted: April 10, 2007 4:35 p.m.
Updated: April 25, 2007 5:01 a.m.
DEAR ABBY: My son, "Caleb," has a serious bullying problem. He is 14 and in ninth grade. His teacher has had to meet privately with me three times this week. Caleb will hit, bite, chew, spit on or slap the other students in the classroom. He has even hit his teacher.
    At home, Caleb hits me and bites my arm. He also picks up things and throws them at people. I don't know if I should try to deal with him myself or send him to a psychiatrist. I am worried that my son is becoming a serious problem, and I want to make sure that it doesn't ever go too far. Please help me. -- CAN'T COPE, RICHARDSON, TEXAS
    DEAR CAN'T COPE: It has already gone too far. Your son has a serious problem. By age 14, he should have long ago learned how to control his raging temper. Caleb should absolutely be evaluated by a mental health professional. And if he assaults you, another child or a teacher again, the police should be notified because the young man is a serious danger to others.
    DEAR ABBY: Please encourage the families of soldiers returning from the war to be patient and not pressure the soldier upon his/her return by insisting he or she visit relatives, or attend this or that function in their honor.
    A relative of mine just returned from the Middle East and regrets each and every time he has visited home because his parents won't let him rest and be quiet. He is now considering no longer coming home on leave.
    All he wants is time to adjust and regain some peace of mind. He often hides out at my house, where there are no pressures, just relaxation and a quiet atmosphere because I place no demands on him. This has been very stressful for my soldier relative — to the point that he has broken down in tears in my presence more than once.
    Should I say something to the parents when and if their relative stops coming home altogether? I'm not that close to them, but the relative and I have always been close. -- CARING RELATIVE, CHATTANOOGA, TENN.
    DEAR CARING RELATIVE: Ideally, the person who should speak to these proud parents is their son. If he can't find the courage to inform them that he's not up to public appearances, then you should do it — now.
    And thank you for giving me the chance to point out that upon return from a war zone, our fighting men and women need private time to rest, decompress, and slowly readjust to a lifestyle in which they are not constantly under the threat of danger, where every stranger they encounter is not a potential suicide bomber or terrorist, where the sound of a balloon popping is not a signal to hit the dirt, and they can sleep through the night in a place they are certain won't be a target. (There is no guarantee they won't wake up in the middle of the night still feeling the terrors of the war zone, anyway.)
    The pressures to which our service members are subjected in a war zone can leave them with post-traumatic stress problems that take time, and often therapy, to overcome. It's important that families understand and appreciate this, and not overschedule their service member regardless of how well-intentioned the social schedule may be.
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