Years of relentless bullying for being gay have driven yet another young person has to commit suicide: 20-year-old Tim Ribberink, a Dutch college student training to be a history teacher, took his own life last week. And in an attempt to prevent more tragic losses like this one, Tim's heartbroken parents published his suicide note along in a local newspaper along with his death notice. He wrote:
“Dear Mum and Dad, All my life I have been ridiculed, abused, bullied and excluded. You guys are fantastic. I hope you’re not angry. Until we meet again, Tim.”
Tim's parents say they had no idea anything was wrong until the day Tim died. Tim said he was ridiculed, abused, bullied, and excluded all his life. As a parent, that's the part I find most terrifying of all. How does this happen?
Kids, especially teens, are exceptionally good at hiding things from their parents, it's true. But I still like to think that I can tell when something is bothering one of my children -- at least most of the time. And after some digging (sometimes quite a lot of digging), they'll eventually open up to me about the problem.
Still, there have been plenty of occasions when the most elaborate answer I've been able to extract has been that old adolescent standard: "Nothing." Nothing is wrong. Nothing happened at school. Nothing is bothering them. Nothing, nothing, nothing.
How are we, as parents, supposed to know when nothing is something? Tim's parents loved him dearly. It's not like they were too busy to care what was going on in their son's life, as some people are automatically assuming. Sure, that would make it easier for the rest of us: Oh well, his parents didn't know because they didn't care, that could never happen to me. But they did care. And it could happen to any one of us.
Do you ever worry that your teen might be getting bullied and not telling you about it?
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