5 Tips for Parents of LGBTQ Youth and Teens
By Space Coast Daily // August 11, 2021
As a parent, you always want the best for your child. However, offering your kids support isn’t always easy, especially if your child identifies as queer, transgender, or questioning. This is because many LGBTQ youth and teens experience unique challenges that some parents may feel unprepared to deal with.
However, research has shown that support from their families is a central factor in the well-being of LGBTQ adolescents. In fact, according to youth.gov, LGBTQ teens and youth who are rejected by caregivers or parents are eight times as likely to attempt suicide.
They are also six times as likely to report being depressed and three more times as likely to use illegal drugs. These findings show the importance of family support and acceptance in the lives of queer adolescents.
How to Help your LGBTQ Youth or Teen
Get Them Talking
It can be challenging for any parent to get their child to talk to them, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. However, if you don’t try, you’ll never get anywhere, so it’s important to make an effort, even if you get nothing in return at first.
To begin with, start small. Ask about their life, show interest in getting to know their friends, and what they like to do. Ask questions about how their day went. Most importantly, don’t get discouraged if they’re reluctant to engage with you at first. Kids really do want to share what’s going on in their lives, but it may take them some time before they feel comfortable doing so.
Therefore, continue to ask questions and keep the lines of communication open. The more you show your child that you want to talk, the more comfortable they will feel opening up.
Additionally, you want to make sure that they have the support they need. As a parent, there may be some things they’re going through that you can’t help them with. If this is the case, you should engage a therapist who specializes in LGBTQ issues. Start by Googling, ‘mental health therapist near me,” and then winnow your choices down based on the experience of the therapist.
Get Involved with Their School
Your child spends almost as much time at school as they do at home. Therefore, you must ensure that they experience the same support from their school as they do from you. This can mean that you advocate for a gay-straight alliance club or push for more inclusive sex education.
It’s also essential that you maintain frequent contact with your child’s teachers, so you’ll know when issues arise. Finally, if a problem does come up, make sure you speak up. Parents have a huge voice in the school system, so make sure your voice is heard.
Additionally, you must be on the lookout for signs of bullying. These include:
■ A behavior change. For example, a formerly outgoing individual becomes withdrawn.
■ Their grades decline.
■ The people they are friends with suddenly change.
■ They start displaying behavioral or discipline issues in school.
■ They start missing school.
■ You notice that they are doing risky things like drug use, which is out of character for them.
Know What Your Child is Up to Online
Unfortunately, many LGBTQ youth and teens rely on social media and phone applications for the acceptance and support they don’t get from the people around them.
While many apps and social platforms offer queer individuals an inclusive space to connect with allies and friends, some contain inappropriate content. Therefore, it’s crucial that you know what sites and apps your youth or teen is using. You also need to talk to them about their online activity, so they understand the dangers they may face.
Furthermore, many social interactions take place online, including dating, so you should incorporate the subject of romantic relationships into this conversation. Your child must understand that you don’t have a problem with their dating choices and that LGBTQ relationships are normal. There’s nothing to be ashamed of or hide. However, there are a lot of predators online, so you must teach your adolescent how to implement safety measures.
Understand the Facts
As a parent of an LGBTQ youth or teen, you need to know a few essential truths. For starters, queerness is not a phase. Don’t dismiss their evolving sense of self. Instead, embrace it and help them embrace it. Secondly, there is no cure. There is nothing wrong with your child, and nothing needs to be fixed. Lastly, there is no one to “blame.” It’s no one’s “fault.” You need to celebrate your child and everything that they are.
In addition, you need to educate yourself on gender and sexual orientation. There are a lot of misconceptions out there, so you must learn the facts. This will help you engage meaningfully with what your child is going through.
Make Sure They Know They’re Loved
Coming out to one’s parents is often the scariest part for many LGBTQ youths. This is because parents are a child’s anchor, and they crave your acceptance. However, once they know that you love and support them, they will feel empowered to handle anything the world throws at them. In fact, research has shown that LGBTQ adolescents who have the support of their families grow up to be healthy and happy adults.
It’s important to know that there’s no right or wrong way to express love. All you have to do is be present and open. This doesn’t mean that you always need to have the answer. So long as they know that you’re there for them, support them, and love them, they will thrive.