During Pride Month last year, I wrote about supporting your LGBTQIA+ child. This year, I’d like to focus in on supporting your transgender youth. This discussion is vital when considering that a large number of states are considering or enacting legislation that blocks gender-affirming care for youth.
Research has already shown that transgender youth are among the most susceptible LGBTQIA+ youth to severe mental health issues such depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation/attempts. Validation and acceptance are among the many protective factors that can safeguard transgender youth, and research shows that parents can play a vital role in this.
“How do I support my transgender child?”
1) Validate them!
If your child has discussed the gender exploration with you, remember that it took a lot of courage for them to be honest with you. Whatever you are feeling in the moment, take the time to put it to the side and validate that courage! They probably have fears of anger and rejection for being honest with you. The best first step is to greet them with acceptance.
2) BELIEVE THEM!
Seemingly simple phrases such as “Are you sure?” and “I think it’s just a phase” will almost certainly speak the same thing to your child – you are not a safe person to discuss this topic with. You may approach it with curiosity – “Can you tell me more about your experience?” – but declarations that speak they don’t know what they are talking about pose the risk of shutting them down.
3) FOLLOW THEIR LEAD!
Don’t immediately assume what your child is wanting in exploring their gender identity. They will undoubtedly have ideas of their own, so be willing to listen to their unique experience. Don’t be afraid to ask them how they want to express their identity or what gender-affirming care they would like to pursue. Be a part of the discussion with them!
4) LEARN WITH THEM!
You DON’T need to be an expert in transgender care for your child! Excellent programs such as the Gender Pathways Program at Children’s Mercy exist so you can meet with experts in the field of gender care. However, be willing to learn with your child. Admit when you don’t know the answers and let them know you will help them search for them.
5) SEEK YOUR OWN SUPPORT!
Undoubtedly, there will be a whirlwind of emotions and questions that will hit you when your child comes out as transgender. Do not put the emotional load back on your child! They are going through their own journey with it! Seek out supportive family and friends, and consider seeking professional help for yourself to process the news. We at Heartland Therapy Connection would love to support you in that journey!
Of course, this is not an exhaustive list, and there are many other things to consider. Articles, such as these from the Human Rights Campaign and Psychology Today, can help broaden your knowledge and get you on a more affirming path for your child. As always, feel free to reach out to us at (816) 287-0252 to make an appointment today if you would like help in learning more about affirming your transgender child.