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Q. My 14-year-old son is the victim of a shunning and asked me to contact his school counselor on his behalf. Is this a reasonable request, or should he be the one to do it? It kind of feels like I'm doing the tough work for him.
A. Think of yourself as the invisible hand of support. You can call and set up the appointment. But your son has to be the one to describe the problem and help create a strategy to address it. So have him prepare by writing down the time line and details, why the mean-kid treatment is making it so difficult for him to focus in school, and what he wants changed. Then you both attend the meeting, where he should communicate what he wrote; if he gets overwhelmed, he can ask you to step in. Your collective goal is to devise an action plan with a clear timetable and a response if the bullying gets worse. As soon as he gets home, have him send the counselor a thank-you e-mail that reviews his expectations for what she will do to address his difficulty. None of this will be easy for him, but with your guidance he'll learn how to advocate for himself. That's what matters most here.
Originally published in the March 2011 issue of Family Circle magazine.