Posts Tagged ‘ bullying ’

New Book ‘Family Pride’ Advocates for LGTB Families

Monday, January 14th, 2013

When I was a junior in high school in 1991, three students came out to me under a dark stairway after class. They wanted me to write their stories about being gay for the student newspaper. I did a sentimental and sympathetic piece, and we caused a scandal. The gay kids worried about their safety–and so did I. Half of the administrators reacted with support, and the other half with disdain. Many people preferred the don’t-ask-don’t-tell attitude that was status quo at that time.

The students, two gay boys and one bisexual girl, weren’t harassed any more than usual after the article was published. Back then, there was a Glee-like atmosphere among the student body about LGTB kids. A third of the student body considered them cool–novelties really. To the rest, gay teenagers were invisible or ridiculed. No one was slushied or thrown in a dumpster as far as I know. It was more likely for a gay kid to get a flying French fry to the back of the head in the cafeteria. Sometimes a group of manly guys would sing mean songs in the hallway causing riots of laughter.

When I read a new book that comes out tomorrow, Family Pride: What LGTB Families Should Know about Navigating Home, School and Safety in Their Neighborhoods, I got the feeling that things aren’t so different today. The subject is more out in the open–in the media and in person. Now, a big focus of the debate has turned to same-sex parenting, something that was kept secret in the ’90s if it happened at all. But LGTB parents and LGTB kids are still facing discrimination–and outright cries against them. They work hard to achieve their dreams of equality, fairness and inclusion. LGTB people are tired of getting the stink eye and listening to catty comments at PTA meetings and church services.

Prolific author Michael Shelton, a therapist, wrote this book to address LGTB parenting specifically, but he is also an expert on human sexuality for all ages. In Family Pride, he deftly explains school, health care, religious institutions and recreational opportunities for LGTB families. He’s done extensive research to provide facts, bust myths and give resources.

I love the last paragraph of his book, which is a must-have for LGTB parents and useful for parents of LGTB kids. He writes:

“It doesn’t matter that research has demonstrated that LGBT parents are just as competent as heterosexual parents and the outcomes for their children are positive. A tenacious, well-organized, well-funded, and well-connected minority continues to excoriate these families and vehemently fight their progress. LGBT families and their allies do not have the financial and political
muscle of their detractors, and their successes have often come on the coattails of progress for LGBTs in general. For example, the repeated calls for more research regarding the medical and mental health needs of LGBTs inevitably advance our knowledge of LGBT parents. Efforts to
increase the inclusiveness of religious institutions regarding LGBTs no doubt make these venues more approachable for LGBT families. Finally, the ongoing efforts at bullying prevention and intervention for all students cannot help but remedy the negative experiences encountered by children of LGBT parents. As acceptance of LGBTs grows, so too will the acceptance of LGBT parents and families, yet we have a long way to go.”

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Keep Your Boy Safe from School Bullying: Read ‘The Last Boys Picked’

Tuesday, September 11th, 2012

Today my first book review appeared in the October print edition of Parents Magazine. I would call The Last Boys Picked a wowing and enlightening guide for any parent–especially those of us who have sons.

Author Janet Edgette, a renowned child psychologist, used her twin boys for inspiration. One is athletically gifted and has lots of friends. The other, Jake, is his opposite. Edgette addresses the struggles of the everyday boy who just doesn’t care about–or play–sports. In our culture, sports can be all-consuming socially–it’s how males bond, and it’s the barometer they use to judge each other. If a boy goes into kindergarten with no skill or interest in balls or soccer, “This leaves the child very vulnerable,” Edgette says. “It can lead to teasing which leads the child to be miserable which leads to more exclusion.” What should a parent do with a boy who isn’t athletic–and who prefers reading or astronomy or being alone instead?

Some parents are confounded. They push their little men to practice more to build character. Most sons hate every minute. Dads–even well-meaning ones–are often disappointed. They feel like they’re missing out on a father-son ritual, and it pulls their relationships apart, sometimes with bitterness.

Edgette’s book is about accepting these boys as is and encouraging them in other ways so they don’t feel like the odd man out at home or at school. It’s also about plain, old-fashioned bullying–how to spot it and stop it. Here are some of Edgette’s brilliant suggestions about raising a self-confident male–no athletics required.

Note the signs that he’s not a born sportsman. Does he avoid roughhousing with other boys? Does he complain of bellyaches on game day? Does he frequent the bathroom when he’s supposed to be playing? Does he hang out near adults or on the sidelines looking uncomfortable? He may be the boy this book is about–and that’s okay.

Use supportive words such as, “I’ve worried that you don’t like [insert sport]. What do you think?” Listen to him without judgment and reply, “I don’t want you to feel like you have to do a certain activity to win my approval.” This can be harder for dads, and the book offers first-rate coping advice. Dads have to accept their sons and work hard to find common ground.

Encourage his strengths by asking him what he does like. Maybe he enjoys knock hockey or foosball. If he loves science, reading or drawing remind him how important these skills will be when he gets older and point him to like-minded friends.

“Don’t wait to figure out your child,” Edgette told me. Even if he’s only 1 year old, ask yourself if he’s growing up along the lines of a Normal Rockwell boy, or does he have space to show you who he is going to become? “Tell yourself, ‘I’m going to let my boy be who he is,” Edgette suggests. So many teaching opportunities in parenting can happen so much earlier. Children hear and observe our attitudes toward them even before they can even talk. “We can teach our boys early on to own who they are, and the world will follow them. We can’t have a bully if we don’t have a victim.”

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