Six Ways to Support LGBTQ Youth
When a child is lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning (LGBTQ), talking with parents is one of their greatest challenges. Parents who learn that their child is LGBTQ often feel unprepared. Parents should take steps to help their children stay healthy and happy.
- Tell your child you love them. You don’t need a counselor or doctor to help you give them this most important piece of information—that you love them unconditionally.
- Be supportive. You may not feel prepared to help your child or to discuss the topic with them, but it’s important you show support and find support for yourself as well.
“Children who are questioning their sexual orientation or gender identity need a safe, supportive environment that allows them to say how they feel without fear of being judged,” said Sondra Wise, LCSW, at Memorial Behavioral Health. “Families may reach out to medical and behavioral health professionals to help them navigate a path forward.”
- Keep communication open. An open dialogue with your child stressing continued conversation can help you better understand their feelings. Take advantage of opportunities to discuss LGBTQ topics in current events and popular culture. Open communication also allows you to learn.
- Be respectful with your words. You may not realize that you may use some offensive terms. Educate yourself on inclusive language relating to gender pronouns, biological sex, gender identity and sexual orientation. Do not make assumptions—it’s okay, for example, to ask others for their preferred pronouns.
“Consider how your words impact your child’s mental wellness,” continued Wise. “Avoid judging and placing blame. Express unconditional love, acceptance and support.”
- Promote healthy relationships. As they become more interested in dating and even when making new friends, make sure your child is involved in healthy and age-appropriate relationships. Your child should not feel they have to hide any of their relationships.
- Stay involved. Seek out organizations that support LGBTQ students, and if they don’t exist, work to ensure your child’s schools provide an inclusive environment. Watch for signs of bullying and reach out to the school immediately if you are concerned.
“Signs of bullying may include physical manifestations such as stomachaches or headaches, difficulty sleeping, changes in appetite, changes in behavior, not wanting to go to school or slipping grades,” said Wise.
Need to talk?
Memorial Behavioral Health has counselors who can help you and your family. Find the location nearest you.