It’s easy for adults to forget what adolescence was like. The frustrations of figuring out the sometimes-foreign world around us combined with the cocktail of raging hormones that set our emotions off at the drop of a hat. Man, being a kid was hard!
What can make an already-hard situation even harder for a young person is being “different” in some way. For young people who identify as LGBTQ, school bullying can be devastating. Rumors, gossip, name-calling, or unwanted sexual jokes or comments can make learning and socializing incredibly difficult. Homophobic bullying can affect a young person’s confidence and well-being.
Here are 4 ways parents can support their LGBTQ child should they become the victim of bullying:
Listen to your child and offer your support. This means validating their feelings and letting them know it is 100% okay to question their sexual orientation or gender identity.
You WANT your child to WANT to talk to you. So, when they do, give them your full attention and support.
2. Work with Your Child’s School
Any bullying incidents should be reported to your child’s school immediately because they have a professional and legal responsibility to keep your child safe. Work with school administrators to develop a safety plan and encourage the school board to include specific written protections for LGBTQ students in its bullying prevention policies and student codes of conduct.
You will also want to keep a written record of all bullying incidents as well as follow-up meetings, locations, witnesses, and what was said and/or done.
3. Contact the Police
Should your child be physically threatened or hurt, sexually assaulted, or had their personal property damaged or stolen, immediately contact your local police. If the police in your area has a hate crimes unit, contact them after your report has been filed, and tell them you believe the incident to be a hate-motivated crime based on your child’s actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. Using your notes, describe in detail the incident that has caused your child to feel unsafe.
4. Build Your Child’s Self-Esteem
Being the victim of bullying can put a significant dent in your child’s self-esteem. It’s important that you help them develop their strengths and talents by creating opportunities for them to excel. This could mean signing them up for a sport, dance classes or helping them discover what hobbies they enjoy and excel at.
Bullying can be a very disturbing experience for anyone, particularly youths who are simply searching for their identity and sense of belonging. Finding the most helpful way to support your LGBTQ child during such a time can be challenging in and of itself, and many parents find it helpful to work with a family therapist who can support the entire family in finding ways to deal with the situation.
If you or a loved one have experienced bullying and would like help, please contact me today.