As kids return to school, some kids will be billed because their parents identify as LGBTQ. We know that bullies are always on the prowl and that, sadly, many, many kids will be bullied at school. Being bullied is always painful, but when the bullying revolves around your family, whom you love, the pain can run even deeper.
Parents who are LGBTQ will naturally have a lot of feelings about their child being bullied due to their ( the parents ) identity. They may feel angry, hurt, protective and may even want to lash out at the bullies. Parents may feel triggered by their own memories of being bullied when they were in school. These feelings might be amplified if they were bullied themselves for being LGBTQ.
When bullying of this type happens, everyone in the family might be feeling raw and vulnerable. So what can parents do to be of help to their children?
Check your own emotions and reactivity.
Your child needs you to be grounded, supportive and compassionate toward them. This issue is about them right now. You need to have your feelings and have productive ways to deal with them, but do not mix that in with what your child needs right now. Don't make your child feel like they have to take care of you because you are so upset. They will likely try and dismiss the issue and not tell you next time something happens. They don't want to upset you.
While this sounds easy enough, if we have not achieved item number one, we won't be very effective at listening. Listening, really listening is compromised when the emotional centers of our brains are activated and we are upset. Breathe, breathe, breathe.
Be an ally for your child in a way that respects what your child needs.
Being an ally means I am behind you, supporting you, not in front leading the charge. Find out if your child is open to having you intervene in any way. Perhaps this will mean speaking to the other parents ( although this is rarely what the child will want ). Perhaps this will mean contacting the school and speaking with the principal, dean or another administrator.
Offer to help the school be more knowledgeable about being LGBTQ.
If your school does not have education for teachers, staff and students about being LGBTQ, ask them if you can help them find written and/or in-service resources. Provide the school with names of community groups who will come to the school and provide education.
Join the PTA and offer to spearhead a diversity committee.
Unless your child is OK with you doing so, do not be the face of LGBTQ parents in the school. This will likely draw more unwanted attention to your child.
Most importantly, remember that your child needs your support and love. You are their most valuable, emotional resource.
Dr. Margo Jacquot is founder and director of The Juniper Center. Jacquot is a licensed clinical psychologist, certified supervisory addictions counselor and board-certified expert in traumatic stress. She is also a local and national lecturer on trauma recovery, substance abuse, LGBTQ issues and working with couples.