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Children bullied about having two mums

Sun 13 Feb 2005 In: Ask Our Expert View at NDHA

My partner and I have two young children from my previous marriage. From time to time we've experienced the odd problem with the kids being picked on at school about their mums, but it's become worse since my partner joined the school board and we're more widely known as a lesbian couple. We're not sure what to tell our kids about how to respond to the bullying. What can we do? - Theresa, Hamilton Jim comments: What you mean by "bullying" is critical here. There are two possibilities. One is verbal and the other physical. In both cases the teachers must be made aware that this is happening and it must be clear that this is unacceptable behaviour in the school. It is the school's responsibility to police the school grounds and make sure that any kind of bullying is ended. But you will never be able to protect the children from all forms of rude remarks. So the best thing is to prepare them for it. A good loving relationship with them and between yourself and your partner is good insulation. Next explain to them that some people are just dumb and others are just mean and say hurtful things. The old maxim "stick and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me" is a good one. The opinions of others do not say anything about one's self-worth. Teach them to stand on their own two feet and make up their own mind. You can use these incidents to teach valuable lessons to the kids. Ask them if they believe the nasty things others say. No doubt they'll say they don't. Show them that facts are facts and opinions, good or bad, are just opinions. They should trust their own perception and their own mind. It might be useful to also try and meet other gay couples with children and spend some time with them. The kids may feel isolated and knowing other children in same-sex families will be helpful. Jacquie comments: I know only too well how you are feeling from personal experience. Over the years I have been a foster parent to a number of children and have seen the results of school bullying first-hand, where the tool to bully has been my sexuality. What you will already know is bullying has gone on in schools forever for all sorts of reasons. It is a fact children do, from time to time, bully other children and the flimsiest of reasons seem adequate. Kids can be extremely cruel. You don't have to have homosexual parents or religious parents or come from a single parent family for the bullies to bully you. Of course we'd all like a perfect world where kids were not bullied at all, for any reason, but sadly I don't think this is going to happen. I don't know the answers to stop the bullying; however, I am going to tell you how one boy of mine (admittedly he was older than your kids) handled some intense harassment when he was placed in my care at age 11. He put up with a lot of taunts for some time without telling me, as for the first time in his life he had a stable home and someone that cared for him and that was more important to him than the bullies. Anyway, one day my young man flipped after some constant teasing about my having had a sex change, and he retaliated by telling these kids that I kept it in a pickle jar on the mantlepiece and if they did not stop I would come to the school and hit them over the head with it. All of a sudden he was the most popular kid in town and always had mates over for weekends etc. It was some years later that he finally told me all those kids visited just to try and find the pickle jar, they of course never did, however his strategy worked. He made friends, they made friends with me, and some barriers were broken down forever. I was always active in youth affairs and school activities and I found the more active I became, the less of a problem my sexuality became. That boy is 21 now and is an Auto Electrician apprentice with a wide circle of mates, and several girlfriends, and I know them all and he likes nothing better than mixing with my gay friends. He is a well adjusted, and balanced young man. Overall, children of same-sex parents seem to develop well, and even will grow up with various advantages as a result of having gay parents. So my advice is stay active on that school board, show your kids that you are proud of who you are and that they can be proud as well, get involved in as many school activities as you can, familiarity will break down those barriers very quickly. You and your partner will become just another part of the school scene, but most importantly always teach them to stand up for themselves and for you their parents, let there be no room for shame. Schools are very conscious of the effects of bullying these days and will, if approached in a rational manner, initiate strategies to stop unacceptable behavior and if your particular school doesn't, I would not hesitate to remove my kids and find a school with a culture of inclusiveness and tolerance. - 13th February 2005


First published: Sunday, 13th February 2005 - 12:00pm

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