Parenting Your LGBTQ+ Child- How to Help Them Thrive
Parenting is the most rewarding and difficult job that a person will undertake in life. There are countless things to worry about, decisions to make, rules to put into place, and a seemingly even more endless list of “how-to” books and advice. Every loving parent wants the best in life for their kids, and wants to do everything in their power to ensure that their children grow up to have a healthy and happy life. In the case of parenting a child within the LGBTQ+ Community, this can seem even more difficult. LGBTQ+ youth are at increased risk of adverse health and mental health outcomes, the best and most important way that a parent to an LGBTQ+ child can protect them is to be present in their lives. Following are just a few things that a parent of an LGBTQ+ child should keep in mind.
Assure them of your love
A parent is the most influential person in their child’s life. They are the first to show them what love is, the first person they look up to, and see as a safe place from the hard parts of life. As a parent of an LGBTQ+ youth it is vitally important that you make absolutely sure that your child knows how much you love them, and that your love for them is unconditional. Studies have shown that LGBTQ+ children/teens who feel unaccepted by their parents are far more likely to be depressed, think about/attempt suicide, experiment with drugs and alcohol, and experience unsafe sexual relationships.
One thing you should do as a parent to an LGBTQ+ child is to learn everything you can about the LGBTQ+ Community, about sexuality, and about your child. You probably already have some ideas about what homosexuality means. Perhaps you have learned about it from your religious institution, television, or books. However, there is always more to learn, and you owe it to your child to do your best to seek out new sources of information with an open mind.
Another important thing that you can do as a parent of an LGBTQ+ child is to do your best to act naturally! It may have come as a shock to you when your child/teen came out as LGBTQ+, you may be worried about what their life will look like going forward, and you may have to adjust the picture you had in your own mind of their future. All of this change may feel overwhelming to you, but try to remember that your child is looking closely to see how you react to this news. You should do your best to continue to parent them the way you always have, help them with their homework, take them to their after school activities, nag them about doing their chores and not spending so much time on social media. Just be their mom or dad!
Encourage Them to Talk
Kids are notoriously difficult to get to open up! We’ve all been there on the drive home from school trying to pry information out of our kids about how their day went and getting nothing in return aside from a few grunts and one word answers. However, the more you try to talk to your kids about all the little things in their lives, (their school work, friends, interests etc.) the easier it will be for them to open up to you about the bigger things such as sexuality, and gender.
As the parent of an LGBTQ+ youth, it is so important to make sure that they know that you are always available for them to talk! Navigating this type of self exploration is tricky, oftentimes confusing, and sometimes frightening. Your child will need to talk to someone, and you need to make sure that they know that you want to be one of those people. If you need more support we, at Georgetown Counseling and Wellness would be happy to help your family navigate this new chapter.
Be in Agreement With Your Parenting Partner
“Teamwork makes the dreamwork”, it's a common saying that we hear all the time, but it's especially true for parenting! If your child has two parents (or more) in their life, it is vitally important that both/all parents are in agreement on how they are going to support their LGBTQ+ child. It is monumentally harmful to a child to see their parents in disagreement over something that directly concerns them. In order to avoid this harmful circumstance from becoming a reality, it is highly recommended that all parents involved in the child’s life come together to support the child that they love.
Sometimes this might be difficult if the relationship between parents is strained or if they are not in regular contact with each other. Consider working with a counselor to develop a plan together to support your child. This journey can sometimes be overwhelming for parents and children alike and having a game plan for how to handle any situation that may arise is the best way to keep your child on track to a happy and healthy life.
Teach them About Healthy Relationships
Just like any other teen, your LGBTQ+ child will seek out friendships and romantic relationships with their peers. It is important that you teach them what a healthy relationship looks like in both of these areas. LGBTQ+ students often face much higher than average rates of bullying and harassment, having friends that they can trust may make a world of difference if your child experiences this type of trouble in school. So teaching your child how to find those kinds of relationships is a great tool in their tool box for protecting them from harm.
When it comes to romantic relationships it can sometimes feel awkward for parents to have a conversation with their children about safe sex, but it is so important! You may feel like you are not equipped with the right knowledge to have this type of conversation with your child, and if that’s true, there are tons of resources available to you to learn about all the important considerations for safety in LGBTQ+ sexual relationships.
You should make sure that your child is aware of the need for protection even in situations where pregnancy is not of concern. It is still important for LGBTQ+ youth to know about STI’s and the risk associated with sexual activity. You should also talk to your child about the level of intimacy that is appropriate for their age, and the safest ways to seek out age appropriate dating relationships.
Need More Help?
At Georgetown Counseling and Wellness, we care about the mental health and well-being of our LBGTQ+ community and our therapists are trained to work with all genders and issues related to the LBGTQ+ community. We also have great therapists who specialize in working with children and families! Call us at 512-400-4247 for a free 10-minute consultation or to schedule an appointment.
Please check out the following resources for more information and support for parents and family of LGBTQ+ youth.
The Family Acceptance Project https://familyproject.sfsu.edu/
The Trevor Project: https://www.thetrevorproject.org/