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His grades have dropped, he complains about going to school and he “lost” his favorite sweatshirt. Sure, your kid might just be going through a phase. But if he confides in you that he’s being bullied, it’s time to take action. Here’s what to do.

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Resist the urge to contact the bully’s parents
When your son tells you that Bobby has been stealing his lunch money, you’ll probably feel like marching over to Bobby’s house and screaming at the two idiots who raised the little psychopath. But not only could a knee-jerk reaction escalate the situation and make things worse; it could prevent your kid from confiding in you in the future. Instead, ask questions: How long has this been going on? Has he tried to tell a teacher? How does he think the two of you should solve the problem? Encourage your child to be part of the solution, rather than going over his head (and doing something you might regret…like beating up a third grader).

Praise your kiddo
Bullying aside, your child deserves a huge pat on the back for being smart, mature and brave enough to come to you with a problem and taking proactive steps to solve it. (What a superstar.) Empower him and make sure he understands that he did the right thing—he isn’t in trouble for tattling and he has a team of people who are on his side to make sure the bullying doesn’t continue.

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Tell a teacher
Make sure the school faculty (think: his teachers, the principal and the guidance counselor) is totally clued in to everything that’s happened so far. A great approach? Write down every negative interaction your kid has had with the bully, and the dates each incident happened.

Keep talking about it
So you’ve reported the incidents to your kid’s school and everything seems to have cooled off. But just because your child stops talking about the bully doesn’t necessarily mean the behavior has stopped. Check in with your child at least once a week (and every day, at first) to see how everything’s going at school, and ask if the behavior is better, worse or the same. If he’s really hesitant to talk about it, ask him to rate his day on a scale from 1 to 10. He might be willing to admit he had a horrible day, even if he doesn’t want to explicitly talk about who made his day so horrible. 

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Call on your kid’s friends for support
There’s strength in numbers, so reach out to the parents of your child’s friends and develop a plan of action if a bullying situation arises. Encourage them all to stick together and support each other, whether they’re in the cafeteria, walking home from school or playing basketball on the playground.

Keep things positive at home
If your child is having a hard time at school right now, it will pass—but until then, create an oasis for him at home. Let him watch his favorite TV show after school, make his favorite mac and cheese for dinner and read him an extra bedtime story. Of course, you can’t spoil him forever, but when he’s feeling down, there’s nothing wrong with making extra sure he feels loved. 

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