Parenting LGBTQIA+ Youth
There is so much noise in the world and an overload of information and advice because of social media. What is the best parenting style? You should parent this way or that way. These should be the moral and political values you should raise your children with. This is the food you should let your children eat, etc.
We are incredibly divided as a nation in many areas of life, including parenting based on values. Because there is so much information out in the world, we can sometimes feel very lost, especially when it comes to parenting children who belong to the LGBTQIA+ community or are questioning and exploring their sexuality and gender.
This article is not here to judge any parent for their parenting values or styles or persuade anyone to abandon their ideals and values. However, there are children in this world who are struggling, trying to figure out their identity, their sexuality, their place in this world, their value, or their purpose. As children and teenagers grow and learn, developing their personalities and beliefs, parents are trying to grow alongside them and may feel like a fish out of water navigating new experiences.
There is certainly no correct or perfect handbook on how to parent, and yet, researchers, human growth and development professionals, trauma therapists, and many more healthcare and childhood development professionals explore, test, and publish evidence-based research that provides guidance, so parents can raise healthy, well-adjusted children, no matter the identity or the sexual orientation of those children.
Parenting is not easy; being responsible for the well-being of a child, teenager, or young adult is a pressure like none other in this world. Parenting youth who are exploring or identifying as a member of the LBGTQIA+ community may be a surprise or a challenge in our society today.
As we move into this new, brave world, we are seeing so much more acceptance and love within many smaller communities rather than on a grander scheme, which provides many challenges for the children, teens, and young adults, in the LGBTQIA+ community, in our lives.
As a therapist who has worked with many people who have endured trauma, specifically those who identify as gay, bisexual, pansexual, trans, and gender-fluid, there are many things their parents can provide them to reduce the risk of enduring trauma.
For parents who may be unfamiliar with the terminology or do not know what every letter stands for, this is a brief breakdown of the members of this community. LGBTQIA stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, and Asexual. The “plus” indicates that there are many more intersectionalities included in the queer community. In the next section, we’ll explore the different terminology of sexual orientations.
Tips for Parents of LGBTQIA+ Youth
As parents, it is a legal responsibility to provide shelter, food, clothes, and safety for your children until they are 18 years of age. Parents who provide and meet the basic needs of their children, no matter how they identify or their sexuality, reduce the risk of causing trauma for their child. Parents provide the initial development of secure attachment and children are born with the inherent unconditional love toward their parents – when this unconditional love is reciprocated, this secure attachment leads to well-adjusted children.
Help your child feel loved and safe after they come out to you about their journey in learning and understanding their authentic self. Whether that be gay, lesbian, queer, trans, genderfluid, etc. Coming out in our society can be an incredibly scary and daunting experience for many youth, or adult. People who know or believe their parents will be accepting may have less nerves when coming out, and a better transition into living their lives authentically. Parents who are present, curious but not judgmental, and actively listen – showing love to their child – can create a safe space for their child for the coming out experience.
Parents should stay involved in their children’s schooling, and educate themselves on terminology, culture, and the issues facing the LGBTQIA+ Community. Moreover, depending on the age of your child, monitor social media usage and look for signs of bullying physically or cyberbullying. Examples to stay active in your child’s school include: Creating Gender Support Plans (if your child is gender fluid or Transgender); staying in contact with their teachers; looking for, or even creating with the schools’ admin, an LGBTQIA+ Youth club or school group.
Parents can also support their LGBTQIA+ child by encouraging dialogue between them and their child. As I mentioned before, parents who are curious and have effective communication and positive active listening skills can create impactful and important dialogue to better understand their children, provide support, and stay connected about issues their child may be facing. Language to use or incorporate in conversations with your children can include, “I appreciate you for opening up to me about this, I support you”; “I would like to better understand how you’re feeling, I am here to listen and learn”; “I may make mistakes, by saying the wrong name or pronoun – this is a big change for both of us – but I am trying”; “I accept you always”.
Again, parenting is not easy, there are so many challenges to face, and many parents are doing it alone. Being a part of the LGBTQIA+ Community is not a mental health issue, however, many members of this community develop mental health issues because of the challenges they face. It is important to look out for signs of depression, anxiety, PTSD, and gender dysphoria.
Parents have an important role in reducing the risks of the mental health issues listed in the previous paragraph. There is no exact right or wrong way to parent, but always parent with love and support.
Bridgeview Clinical Services offers support groups for adults and adolescents a part of the LGBTQIA+ community to explore topics such as gender identity, sexuality, relationships, depression, anxiety, and community. They also have trained staff that can support a person addressing these issues through individual and family counseling.
If you’re interested in signing up for our support groups please email firstname.lastname@example.org . If you’d like to schedule an appointment or prefer to reach us by phone you can speak with Jadie (630) 536-8073.
The Trevor Project. (2022, October 26). Understanding Gay & Lesbian Identities | The Trevor Project.
The Trevor Project. (2023, August 23). Understanding Bisexuality | The Trevor Project. https://www.thetrevorproject.org/resources/article/understanding-bisexuality/