Upset and angry teenager holding her knees and glaring

Unfortunately, bullying is not uncommon. According to the National Bullying Prevention Center, one in five students report being bullied. One of the most common reasons reported for bullying is sexual orientation. Nearly 70 percent of students identifying as LGBTQ+ reported being bullied at school or online.

Teens who are being bullied might not want to tell an adult for a variety of reasons. This is especially true if the individual being bullied is a member of the LGBTQ+ community. Ignoring the bullying can lead to escalation, so it’s important to notice the warning signs and offer support. 

Signs of Bullying

It can be difficult to tell if a teen is being bullied. Feelings of shame and embarrassment can prevent them from being open and honest about their experience. Noticing the warning signs of bullying is an important step in supporting your child. 

  • Avoiding social situations: If your child is suddenly not interested in hanging out with their friends after school, it could indicate that they no longer feel welcome in their social circle.
  • Missing or ruined personal items: Young people can be prone to forgetfulness. But if your student is consistently coming home without their belongings or with ruined backpacks, it could indicate they’re being targeted. 
  • Unexplained injuries: Random scrapes and bruises could be marks of bullying. Be sure to take mental note of these injuries, especially if they’re unexplainable. 
  • Physical ailments: Sometimes a bellyache is just because of too much soda, but it might be a physical manifestation of anxiety caused by bullying. Faking illness to get out of going to school is also common in those who are bullied.
  • Denial of sexuality: If a young member of the LGBTQ+ community suddenly denounces their sexuality, they might do so to avoid bullying. 

Types of Support

The good news is that there are many ways to support to someone that’s being bullied. 

  • Be an ally: Being a known ally is the simplest way to support LGBTQ+ youth. Listen to those in the LGBTQ+ community and stay engaged with them. This helps uplift marginalized voices.
  • Talk about it: Make your home an obvious safe space to discuss sexual orientation. This can help them feel more confident about who they are.
  • Educate others: Don’t sit by and listen if you hear someone put down the LGBTQ+ community. Use it as a teaching opportunity. 
  • Get involved: Get to know your teen’s friends and what they do in their free time, including their online habits. But don’t be a helicopter parent. Showing interest in their friends helps them feel supported and secure. 
  • Use inclusive language: Non-gendered terms like “folks” or “everybody” convey equality more than a term like “ladies and gentlemen” or “male” and “female”. Also, be sure to refer to them by their chosen name and pronouns.
  • Encourage external support: In recent years, there have been many groups created to support LGBTQ+ youth. The “It Gets Better Project” and the “Trevor Project” are two notable movements that help connect and counsel LGBTQ+ youth. 

Long Term Effects

Symptoms of being bullied can last long after the act of bullying stops.  These can include:
  • Low self-esteem 
  • Negative feelings toward family and peers 
  • Increased levels of depression and anxiety
Recognizing and supporting someone who is being bullied is critical to minimizing negative long-term effects. Being bullied is nothing to be ashamed of. Remind them that it’s not their fault. Offering support to the young LGBTQ+ person in your life is the best way to help them transition confidently into adulthood. If they’re open to it, you can also encourage them to seek teen therapy to help them cope with the effects of bullying.

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