I have a guest blogger this week. Sara Bell loves teachers and appreciates the importance of education. She grew up with two teachers as parents and loves learning. Ms. Bell is a writer and researcher working with EducatorLabs. I think you will enjoy her excellent and informative piece about communicating with our LGBTQ children.
Parenting is a tough job from day one. We want nothing more than a happy, healthy child, with a world of possibilities ready and waiting for them. Hopefully, if we’re doing our job right, our kids will always come to us with their feelings and problems. Some children in our families and communities may have gender identity or sexual orientation issues, which may or may not fall within our scope of knowledge.
Luckily, in our current society it has become easier to open up about young people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning, or LGBTQ. These kids, like all children, need our love and support to continue on a healthy path to adulthood.
Understanding Their Struggle
When an LGBTQ child or teen decides to share feelings about their sense of self, it’s a huge step in their relationship with you. Encourage them to keep those lines of communication open by showing them that you respect them and value their trust.
Learn about them and try to understand their particular issues. Gender identity refers to a person’s inner sense of gender: male, female, some of each, or neither. Sexual orientation describes to whom a person feels attraction: people of the opposite gender, the same gender, or both. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, but be sure to empathize and share your feelings while listening to them.
Check with your child to be sure that they are comfortable with it before you share any information to other family members or friends. Earning their trust was important and you don’t want to sacrifice it. Support and love from family and friends are key in helping them find a healthy way of self expression, and to become successful later in life.
Research has shown that kids who were more highly rejected by parents or caregivers, as opposed to those who were accepted and nurtured, were:
- More than 8 times as likely to have attempted suicide
- Nearly 6 times as likely to report high levels of depression
- More than 3 times as likely to use illegal drugs.
- More than 3 times as likely to to be at a high risk for HIV and STDs
Remind friends and family to be respectful and supportive if they wish to be a part of your child’s life. Don’t forget to encourage your child to stay involved in all the things they enjoy, including hobbies, sports, and school events. Positive home and school experiences will curb depression and other self-destructive behaviors. Do your part to spread awareness of LGBTQ issues in your community.
How to Nurture Your LGBTQ Child
Look into your child’s school programs to determine if their are support services available. Support groups, such as the Gay/Straight Alliance, and other kids who identify as LGBTQ can be good support systems for your child.
Always try to talk openly with your child about daily questions or concerns. Keep an eye out for signs that your child might be the victim of harassment or violence, and be sure to address the source immediately by working with school personnel or other authority figures in your community.
Find goals that you can help your child achieve, such as keeping grades up in school and leveling up in sports, to keep your them healthy and focused on positive endeavors.
Take it easy on yourself. We might make mistakes and that is completely normal. Being involved and making the effort to understand your child will show that you care, even if you have to apologize for mistakes sometimes. Don’t let your personal struggles get in the way of forward progress with your child and seek support or therapy for yourself when needed.
Be a Part of Their Community
Start educating yourself and loved ones about LGBTQ issues. Explore the internet to learn about support materials and connecting with other parents in your area. Look into a local chapter of Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG). Groups like these can help parents find support for themselves and make better progress toward understanding their LGBTQ child.
Find out more about local, state, and national laws that affect the LGBTQ community. Making the effort to be a part of their world and having connections to the community help strengthen your knowledge and the bond between you and your child. Keep learning, nurturing, and showing them love.
Find suggested reading from PFLAG here.
You may also find the following resources helpful as well.
The Activist’s Guide to Fostering LGBTQ Pride in Your Community