What to do when your child is being bullied

May 22, 2012 at 7:00 a.m. ET

You've just found out your child's being bullied at school. Sadly, bullying is a common problem for children today. Here's how you can deal with the situation smoothly and help make it stop.

Boy being bullied

Perhaps your child's been trying to get out of going to school lately, or he or she isn't sleeping well. Maybe they've had one too many items go missing recently, such as their school supplies or jacket. Or perhaps your child has just confessed that they're being bullied at school. Learning this can be quite upsetting, and you may be at a loss as to what to do and what to tell your son or daughter. Here are some ways you can handle the situation.

Be comforting and encouraging

It probably took a lot for your child to admit what has been happening at school. They're likely frightened, depressed, ashamed or even angry. It's an upsetting, tumultuous situation, so above all, reassure your child that what they're feeling is normal and that they made the right decision in telling you what is happening.

Get the full story

So you can fully grasp the situation, gently encourage your child to tell you more about the bullying incidents: when they happen, where they happen, what transpires, what supervision is around at the time, etc. Remember that this is likely hard for your child to talk about, so take it slow and let them reveal what they can at a pace they're comfortable with. You may be tempted to barrage them with questions, but that might cause your child to clam up. Be sure to also discuss what he or she does when these incidents occur.

Discuss ways they can handle the situation

Talk with your child about ways to improve their circumstances. Can they somehow avoid coming into contact with their bully? Can they ensure they are never alone at times when they are likely to see this person by making sure to always be near an adult or some friends?

Get the school involved

The school administration should be made aware of any bullying taking place at school. Talk to them about what is happening, and come up with a plan together so your child is no longer at risk. Then, going forward, work together on developing systems to prevent bullying from happening to any other student.

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