Have you ever felt the need to hide important parts of your identity to fit in, out of fear of rejection or for your own safety? Have you ever felt as though your body doesn’t belong to you? Chances are, these are some of the thoughts and feelings that your LGBTQIA+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning/Queer, Intersexual, Asexual, and beyond) child has experienced. This can be a challenging and confusing time for you both but providing support to your child can be integral to their mental health and wellbeing.
Youth in the LGBTQIA+ community are at an increased risk of mental health concerns such as depression, anxiety, self-harm, substance use, and suicidal ideation. However, studies show that having a supportive adult in their lives can reduce these risks significantly. According to the Trevor Project, LGBTQ+ youth with an accepting adult or parent are 40% less likely to attempt suicide (The Trevor Project, 2019). Feeling accepted and supported by family can further reduce depression, suicidal ideation, anxiety, and substance use while also increasing self-esteem and overall mental and physical health. Below are a few of the many ways you can support your LGBTQIA+ child:
Familiarize yourself with the language and be curious without judgment. There is an everchanging amount of terminology to describe the LGBT+ experience, so asking your child what it means to be a part of this community can help them feel validated and heard.
Provide unconditional love and support. Coming out can be a scary experience for your child, and the feeling of isolation and rejection can increase depression and anxiety. Providing a safe space to be their authentic selves is important for their growth and development.
Allow them to come out at their own pace. Your child might feel safe coming out to you and/or their siblings but allow them to decide when they are ready to come out to extended family members, peers, teachers, etc. This is their story, and they should be allowed to tell it in whatever way feels safe to them.
Listen to them. Ask open-ended questions to facilitate discussions about their experiences, hopes, needs, and wants as they explore their identity.
Finally, have grace and compassion for yourself and know that you are not alone. Being the parent or guardian of an LGBTQIA+ child can be confusing and emotional. It is important to remember that your feelings are valid. There is no one right way to react to this experience. Taking care of yourself and getting the support you need is just as important as providing support to your child or loved one. If you need assistance with supporting your LGBTQIA+ child, give us a call to get schedule with a LGBTQIA+ affirming therapist.
By: Veronica Vaughan
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