October is National Bullying Prevention Month. It’s also Mental Health Awareness Month. It’s not coincidental; the two are linked in my opinion.
We know from GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network)’s Climate surveys and the Williams Institute, an LGBT think tank at UCLA, that LGBT+ students are disproportionately harassed at school because they are regarded as “different,” and in the minority.
If that’s the case, then why are they bullying others? Let’s first define bullying. The Bullying and Cyberbullying Prevention and Advocacy Collaborative at Boston Children’s Hospital defines bullying:
- It may include pushing, hitting, tripping.
- Name-calling, teasing.
- Spreading rumors, exclusion from a group.
- Stealing or damaging property.
- Sending hurtful messages over text of social media.
What can a Parent do? Here are some suggestions from Stamp Out Bullying
- Take the accusation seriously. Don’t defend or deny your child’s actions.
- Tell your child that you support the school’s punishment and won’t tolerate it.
- Meet with teachers. What have they observed? Is your child facing problems in school such as low grades or few friends.
- In the case of cyberbullying, monitor social media activity until she proves that your child can handle it responsibly.
- Communication is key with your child. Ask your child what’s the best or worst part of his day. Brainstorm strategies: How does he/she think the bullying could stop? What has to be changed?
- Teach empathy at home. Remind him what it feels like to be bullied.
- Model good behavior: no shoving, yelling, hitting.
Try to get at the root of this behavior. Does your child want to fit in with those who are bullying? Does it get him noticed? Does he feel powerful as the bully and not the victim?
Change may come slowly. He/she will need to improve communication with others. Teach your child how to cope with fears, how to confront and challenge destructive thoughts, improve self-esteem, identify positive mechanisms ( role playing is good for this), and change negative thoughts.
If you need assistance, consider a child psychologist for behavioral modification and cognitive behavior therapy. The specialist may also do an evaluation for such conditions as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder that could be responsible for your child’s impulsivity.
When Your Child Is Gay: What You Need To Know
For more detailed advice, see book, co-authored with a mother of a gay son and a psychiatrist, Jonathan L. Tobkes, M.D.