Family Matters: 3 Ways to Support Your LGBTQ Child
Gender and sexuality can be difficult topics to discuss, especially with children and adolescents. As children grow, we see their identity and personality begin to develop and shine through. While there’s no pressure to label or define a young child’s identity, it can be useful to know healthy ways to have these sensitive discussions if the time comes. Just like adults, kids benefit from having a safe and open environment to speak honestly about how they may be feeling. How a parent responds to questions or comments from their child about gender and sexuality can have a significant impact on parent-child relationships and a child’s sense of self. Here’s 3 tips for best supporting your child, yourself, and your relationship during LGBTQ conversations.
Listen to Your Child
Having an open conversation about gender and sexuality can feel daunting, but it can also be an important opportunity to learn more about your child and foster trust in your relationship. Children, adolescents, and teenagers can all experience curiosity and confusion about themselves and what certain thoughts and feelings may mean. Children may have questions about why they don’t wear the same clothes as their siblings, why some friends have two dads or two moms, and if it’s okay to have a crush on one gender or another. With age, adolescents and teenagers may have more pronounced feelings of their identity and who they may be attracted to. Regardless of inexperience or hesitation on the topic, creating an open dialogue is instrumental to understanding your child’s feelings, affirming their voice and autonomy, and providing parental support and guidance towards a helpful path forward. It can be an equally important time for parents to ask their child clarifying questions or encourage age-appropriate expression. Listening and responding from a place of love and care shows your child that you are a safe place to come to for acceptance and advice on all topics.
Learn About LGBTQ Identity
As a parent, you are not expected to be an expert on all issues or experiences that your child may go through. Queer and non-binary identities are no exception, the LGBTQ space is expansive in the many iterations of gender and sexuality that exist and their related components. The goal is not to find a definite label or place anyone in a box that encompasses all parts of their identity. Rather, LGBTQ resources provide helpful information on different communities and their shared experiences. A young adult that identifies as cis-gender and lesbian most likely has a very different sense of self than another that identifies as non-binary and queer. By learning more about the unique narratives of LGBTQ people, parents may be better equipped to understand common thoughts and feelings that their child is expressing. It may also help to dispel some common fears that parents face during the beginning of their child’s journey. LGBTQ adults today lead normal, happy, and healthy lives similar to their cis and straight counterparts. The LGBTQ rainbow is a testament to the community’s diversity and acceptance. Knowledge of this community can help guide parents to helpful information on their child’s experience and expression.
Lean on Others
In both the good and the bad times, social support can mean the world to both you and your child. No one has all of the answers, but having someone to talk through vulnerable emotions and situations can provide immense comfort. Your child may not feel comfortable talking to anyone and everyone about their feelings and identity. Parents may feel conflicted in who they want to share their family’s personal experience with. Reaching out to other families in the LGBTQ community offers a connection to others who have gone through similar circumstances or who are in a shared place of discomfort or hardship. There are virtual and in-person groups available for supporting families through these difficult conversations and challenges. Professional therapists and counselors can also provide both parents and children with a confidential, safe space to talk through issues of gender and sexuality. In counseling, family members can learn helpful communication skills for expressing themselves and supporting each other’s wellbeing.
LGBTQ Resources for Parents and Youth:
- Gender Spectrum
- My Kid is Gay
- HRC Parent Guides
- Family Acceptance Project
- LGBT Foundation – Friends & Family
Alpine Lakes Counseling Center offers counselors with focus on LGBTQ issues and concerns.
Click the link below to schedule an appointment today.