Bullying is a public health issue for us all: the violence negatively affects all those involved and all who witness it. As incidences of bullying of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) children and teens has come to more prominent public attention, so has awareness of the serious health problems that it has created in our youth.
Both LGBT students as well as those heterosexual youths who are perceived to be gay or lesbian are at high risk of suffering anti-LGBT harassment, violence and physical assault. In response to this regular onslaught, many students drop out of school and some develop coping behaviors that may include criminal activities, alcohol and drug abuse and leaving home. Depression is common and many contemplate or commit suicide as a solution.
Bullying can take many forms, especially in the concentrated community of the school system. It is aggressive and intentional and can include everything from verbal assaults such as name-calling and teasing, to emotional mistreatment, physical harm and cyber-bullying. The assaults make take forms that are nearly invisible to class instructors and parents and it is not uncommon for youth to suffer in silence and isolation as they struggle to deal with the onslaught.
Additionally, LGBT youths often suffer emotional distress at the words and attitudes of parents or significant adults who knowingly or unknowingly ridicule or humiliate them for their sexual orientation.
Bullying has the power to destroy individuals and community. As individuals, we can become more enlightened about this ever-present issue and through compassion we can make a difference. As Gandhi said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”
Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Increase your awareness: There are several excellent resources to guide parents in helping a child or teen who is experiencing bullying. The recently released film, “Bullied to Silence” shares the complexities of this problem and is a must see for communities dealing with these issues.
- Strive for compassion in communication and treatment of others and teach your children these same values. Remember that for every child who is being bullied, there is another child who is lashing out in hurtful ways at another human being. Bullying behavior is not “just a phase” that the bully is going through; bullying is learned behavior and the behavior can be changed and turned around. We are all accountable.
- Consider starting a parent support group at your school. Bring in outside resources to help find ways to change the climate of your student’s world into one of more compassion and caring.
- Remember that we are all accountable and we must remain aware. When a child has been brave enough to confide issues of bullying to an adult, that information should be taken very seriously and investigated.
- It has been said in many ways; we need to honor our differences and cherish our similarities. Compassion for others is a “similarity” that must be cultivated in generations...beginning now.