While society has made some progress in being more tolerant and accepting of the LGBTQ community, this segment of the population is uniquely vulnerable to discrimination, abuse and bullying – especially during the turbulent teen years.
In their most recent National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health, the Trevor Project reported that 52% of LGBTQ middle and high school students reported experiencing bullying in the past year. Additionally, these teens are more than four times as likely to attempt suicide compared to their straight and cisgender peers.
Often, the effects of bullying in adolescence follow people into adulthood, including psychiatric disorders, behavioral health problems and substance abuse. If your son is a bullying victim due to his sexual orientation or gender identity, what steps can you take to help him during Pride Month and beyond?
1. Identify Bullying Behavior
Children can become victims of bullying from a young age in any situation that involves a power imbalance. Bullies use various tactics to frighten, threaten and control their targets, and some aren’t always as obvious as physical or verbal abuse.
- Relational aggression involves emotional and social manipulation. A relationally aggressive bully tries to improve their status by excluding, ignoring or intimidating the target.
- Cyberbullying encompasses any form of technology used to harm, intimidate, stalk or demean others. This harassment style has become increasingly prevalent among teens who use smartphones daily to text and stay connected to the internet. Since online bullies can remain anonymous, they may feel they can do or say anything they like without getting caught and punished.
- Prejudicial bullying includes discriminating against someone for perceived differences such as race, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation or even socioeconomic status. Bullies who engage in this form of abuse may use physical, verbal, emotional or online harassment to torment their targets.
2. Create a Healthy Home Environment
If your son experiences bullying at school, make sure your home is a safe, affirming refuge where he feels loved, supported and free to be himself. Set healthy boundaries and model the kind of predictable behavior you want your children to emulate.
3. Instill Assertiveness
Assertiveness is the secret to developing self-confidence. Teach your son to politely and calmly stick up for himself when someone isn’t treating him respectfully. If your son has trouble making friends, role-play various social scenarios to help him feel more comfortable fitting into a group. Practice until your child feels certain of his ability to handle tricky situations. As his confidence grows, it will become less likely that the bullying will affect his self-esteem.
How to Seek Help for Your Family
If bullying is affecting your family dynamic and quality of life, it can help to work with a qualified expert such as a family counselor. Various nonprofit organizations in your community may also offer bullying prevention resources for you to take advantage of.
Has your son struggled with his mental and behavioral health due to LGBTQ bullying? At ARCH Academy, we offer a solution. Young men grappling with substance abuse, depression and other issues that can impact their future can benefit from a professional treatment program designed to meet their needs. To learn more about our alternative school for young men, reach out today.