5 Ways To Support Your LGBTQIA+ Child
In honor of pride month, here are five strategies to support your child if they are a member of the LGBTQIA+ community:
1. Lead With Love
The most important thing that you can do to support your child is to ensure that they are loved and supported regardless of the gender or sexual identity they carry.
Research has shown that LGBTQIA+ adolescents who feel supported and loved by their families grow to be happier and healthier adults.
Unfortunately, bullying, discrimination, and marginalization of these youth leads to an increased risk for drug misuse, homelessness, and even suicide. But by creating a safe, supportive, and accepting environment for your child, you can actually buffer all of these risks.
According to new research from the Trevor Project, having at least one accepting adult can reduce the risk of suicide in LGBTQIA+ youth by 40%. Your emotional support can quite literally protect your child from harm and give them a sense of security that they will carry with them into adulthood and their future relationships.
2. Process Your Own Feelings
It’s crucial to validate your child’s identity and offer them support–and you’re allowed to have all of the feelings you might have about it. You may have had hopes, dreams, and wishes for your child that will have to change, or you may have worries and fears about what this will mean for their future or their safety.
In order to best be present for your child and support their needs, you need to process your own feelings about their identity (away from them!) Whether this means attending support groups, seeing someone in your church or congregation, or seeing a therapist.
3. Keep Communication Open
It’s your child’s choice whether they want to communicate with you about their identity or not–but even if they choose not to, showing that you are open to conversation about it can build trust and security for them.
Try not to take it personally if they don’t take you up on these conversations and try to find ways to show curiosity and concern. From the point above, your feelings may not match theirs at all–and making space for them to discuss their worries, fears, or excitements about their identity can be powerful.
Let them lead in how much or how little they want to express their identity or discuss it–just let them know that you are in support no matter what and willing to assist where you can.
4. Educate Yourself
Your child may not want to educate you about their identity, and it’s not really fair to put this responsibility on them.
Everyone is different and their gender or sexual identity may not fit neatly into one category or another, but you can show interest in them and initiative as a parent by trying to educate yourself and find resources to learn more about their experience:
5. Support Their Identity Development
Ask your child if there’s anything you can do to help them more fully be themselves. Are there changes they might like to make to their hair or clothes? What name and pronouns should you call them by?
It’s also important to be aware of the messages you might be sending indirectly to them, for example in your choices in media or your reactions to them. For example, you might find movies or tv shows that are more representative of LGBTQIA+ identities to demonstrate to your child that you “see” them.
6. Ask Them!
Perhaps most importantly, just ask! Every child is different, and knowing that they are loved, supported, and really heard can make all the difference.