For LGBTQ+ children, school can be a rough and turbulent experience, even during this time of Covid-19 where remote learning or hybrid schedules are common. While not the case for all, some will excel with and soar through school with no issues, and others will experience struggles. These struggles may relate to the staff at the school or other children, or they could be the result of existing issues. Let’s explore some of the problems and concerns that you need to be aware of as a parent and the right steps that you can take.
Bullying is a common problem for LGBTQ+ children. According to the Human Rights Campaign Youth Report, LGBTQ+ adolescents are 2x more likely to be harassed at school than their straight peers. The good news is that as time goes on, people, specifically Gen X’ers and younger, are far more accepting, allowing kids to embrace their identities. However, it’s still an issue that you need to watch for as a parent. Kids are bullied for all sorts of reasons, whether it’s their gender identity, sexual orientation, the shape of their body or another physical attribute, or even a specific hobby or interest. In some instances, there appears to be no reason for bullying at all.
So, what are some of the signs of bullying? Make an effort to ask your child about your day at school. If they don’t want to talk about it or they dodge the question, then this could certainly be a sign that something is wrong. Try to maintain an open and honest relationship with your child. Encourage them to confide in you and let you know if they have any issues.
Be aware that bullying can leave physical marks. If you notice this, question whether your child may be suffering from issues with physical abuse. This is a worrying and frightening concern. If you suspect bullying, take immediate action. The school should have a zero-tolerance policy for this behavior and provide all the support you need. The critical thing is that your child should never feel like they are going through this alone.
Self-harm is increasingly common in the younger population these days. One poll revealed that more than 70% of teenagers self-harm at some point before they reach the age of eighteen. This issue is far more common in girls and adolescents in the LGBTQ+ community.
A common misconception is that adolescents who self-harm mark their arms and wrists. While maladaptive, this is a powerful, very private coping mechanism. Be aware that they will harm other parts of their bodies that aren’t as noticeable.
Self-harm can also be an addictive behavior. One of the reasons adolescents self-harm is that it provides relief due to the endorphins released by the body. This sensation can become quite intoxicating so that even if a child isn’t depressed, they continue to self-harm. It can start at an early age and be triggered by various issues beyond abuse and bullying. An obvious sign of self-harm will be a sharp object kept in a room or something bloody in the bathroom like a razor. However, it will likely be more subtle as your child will work hard to hide any signs from you.
Once you identify the issue, get your child professional support. They will overcome it, but they will need help to identify the underlying causes and heal those first.
Depression And Anxiety
Depression and anxiety are potentially related to other struggles already addressed and identified in this article. The difference between feeling depressed and depression is that depression occurs an individual suffers from a deep sadness for an extended period. That period could be days, months, or even years. Depression can leave a child with low energy, lack of motivation, or feelings of hopelessness. One of the most common signs of depression is sleeping for extended periods. If you find that your child is consistently sleeping for hours throughout the day and going to bed as soon as they get in from school, this is something to consider.
Adolescents with anxiety can also struggle to go to school. They may suffer from anxiety attacks in the morning and struggle to find the confidence needed to attend their classes or other activities. Depending on the severity, anxiety can cause your child to feel frozen, overwhelmed, and jittery.
LGBTQ+ adolescents are 6x more likely to experience anxiety and depression than their heterosexual peers. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) has helpful tools and strategies. The Trevor Project is another excellent resource.
Cognitive therapy can help with anxiety and depression by teaching your child coping tools that they can use specific to how they are feeling. Medication is also an option, but one that should be discussed with a psychiatrist who works with adolescents.
It’s quite common for LBTQ+ children to have a unique style and specific preferences when it comes to clothing and accessories. For instance, you might find that your teenage boy wants to wear glasses designed for women. This is something to consider when looking at a list of glasses. Alternatively, your young girl could be more comfortable in men’s clothing. This could be an issue if your child’s school has a dress code or even a uniform. Schools aren’t always receptive to the idea of children embracing their personal style preferences.
Ultimately, the most important thing is that your child feels comfortable in whatever they choose to wear to school. You need to be open to these ideas and ready to fight in their corner. While it may take work convincing staff and schools to let your child dress how they want, it will be worth it in the end and ensure that your child has a more comfortable experience at school.
Lack Of Understanding From Teachers
You might find that your most significant issue is that there are teachers at school who aren’t receptive to your child’s individual needs, requirements, and feelings. Be aware that it’s not always kids who can make a child’s time at school a nightmare. Teachers can also be a serious issue. You may need to step in to help your child change classes, or in extreme cases, you may even need to consider switching schools.
Finally, it’s essential to realize that LGBTQ+ children can also experience developmentally typical struggles. They may get stressed about exams or boys and girls that they like. They could get distracted by rough relationships with boyfriends or girlfriends, and they might stress about getting the grades that they need to get into college.
There are layers of struggles that the parent of an LGBTQ+ child will face. Some are considered typical adolescent and teenage behavior or issues and others are very specific to those in the LGBTQ+ community. While anyone can suffer from anxiety, and anyone can have to deal with teachers that don’t understand them, as a parent, you will need to look out for issues like this and provide the support that your children will need.
You, as a parent, are the first port of call when any of these abuses or changes occur in your child’s life. You can be the best superhero in their eyes, but you need help. Don’t think that you are enough of a support structure to help your child because you are the parent. Reach out to other resources because the “burden” is heavy, not just for you but for your child too. Depression, bullying, self-harm, and more will not only manifest physically but mentally and emotionally too. Get professionals on your side, from the school counselor to Mental Health Professionals and even support groups. And don’t only use these resources for your child. Use them for yourself, too (even if you don’t think you need them, you need them). Every link you add to yours and your child support system will fill in the gaps the other link leaves open.