According to the Human Rights Campaign, LGBT youth are twice as likely as their peers to say they have been physically assaulted, kicked or shoved at their school. Ninety-two percent of LGBT youth say they hear negative messages about being LGBT: in school, the Internet, and by peers. No wonder LGBT youth miss as much as a day of school per month, according to GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian, Straight Educational Network).
Is bullying the same as teasing? No, it isn't. It's defined as unwanted, aggressive behavior among school-aged kids that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. It includes actions such as making threats, spreading rumors, attacking someone physically or verbally and excluding someone from a group on purpose.
According to Jonathan L. Tobkes, M.D., co-author of When Your Child Is Gay: What You Need To Know, even if parents don't have the shared experience of being in this "out group," it doesn't mean that you cannot develop a 'radar" for discovering whether this is going on and help your child to combat bullying. It takes time to stop bullying. Be persistent.
Before school starts, help your child devise a plan to feel safe. Assure your child that being a bullying victim is not his fault. Says Dr. Tobkes, "many children will feel humiliated and ashamed and think they have brought it on themselves. Do not BLAME the child for being bullied. Tell your child to come to you right away if anyone is making disparaging remarks or threats," advises Dr. Tobkes.
How do you get your child to open up?
Listen and focus on him. It's important for a child to know that their home, school, community will want to protect him. Emphasize that bullying should not be tolerated. Everyone is entitled to be educated in an atmosphere that makes them feel safe.
Here are some ways you can keep your child safe:
- Brainstorm about alternating their route home so that an adult is always present.
- Do not call the parents of the bully. It could backfire on your child.
- *Role play with your child. Pretend you're the bully and have your child develop pat answers.
- *Reverse roles.
- Model good behavior.
Parents are the most effective deterrent to bullying. Says Dr. Tobkes," I have found that the most important prognostic indicator for a child being targeted for his sexuality is having a safe haven retreat at home."