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What should you tell a child who is getting bullied?

Your son or daughter comes home from school, and you can tell that something is wrong. Maybe it looks like they've been crying. Maybe they're just withdrawn and quiet. You ask them what happened, and eventually you find out that other students have been bullying them.

You may not know exactly what to say, but, without putting too much pressure on you, you should know that your choice of action is incredibly important. Experts even say that the response of a parent is crucial to the recovery of the child. To help you get started, here are a few things to keep in mind:

1. Never blame the victim

As a parent, you probably want to get an idea of what happened. Your child may tell you that someone called them names or even physically struck them, and you may be tempted to ask what happened before that -- i.e., what your child did first. The problem is that this tells your child that you think whatever they did caused the bullying and that it is their fault or that they deserved to get bullied. Never make them look at it this way.

2. Focus on the bully

In fact, it's best not to focus on your child at all. Instead of thinking about the victim -- your natural instinct -- think about the bully. Talk about why he or she acted that way, what the choice means and what your child can do in the future to move past this type of event.

3. Don't tell them to forget about it or get over it

As an adult, you have some perspective. What people said to you in sixth grade doesn't matter because that was 20 or 30 years ago. For the child, though, this is their life right now. It is important. It may be all they think about. Don't act like they should just get over it or that their response isn't natural.

4. Show your child that you love them

Telling your child that you love them is important, and you should do it. Don't be surprised if they react negatively, though. They're worried about their peers at a time like this. It's best just to show your child that you love them. Talk to them. Listen to them. Spend time with them. Give them your attention. Show that the things they're experiencing matter to you. When they know they have this support at home, it makes things far easier.

Legal options

Bullying is an unfortunate reality for many children and families in Missouri. If it has been taking a toll on your child, it may be time to start looking into the legal options you have.

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