Different Roles: Parent and Child
There are two parts to re-balancing family relationships with this powerful change in the family picture:
· The Parent’s Role — finding your own path, keeping your balance, and helping all the children involved, which may include siblings.
· The Child’s Role — learning how to live positively with the challenges of their newly shared identity.
However off-balance you may feel when your child comes out, it’s important to avoid laying your fears and worries on your child. Healthy parenting suggestions include:
Avoid “Venting” to Your Child
It’s essential that your child not become a lightning rod for the many emotions you may feel. Concerns about the future can be heightened now, and it’s important not to use your child as a place to work through your emotions. This section has valuable insights into the parent experience and suggestions below offer alternative ways to handle your feelings.
Find Personal Support
- Join a support group such as PFLAG. Local chapters in many areas provide support for families and individuals. Many parents and families have been in your situation, and their experiences and insight can be a tremendous resource.
- Confide in someone you trust, such as a close friend or a supportive sibling, about what you’re going through. Make sure this person is a positive and encouraging resource.
- Consider counseling. Sometimes the best resource is at arm’s length. A therapist is outside the situation and can provide perspective. Contact your state or local mental health agency for help finding a counselor if you don’t know where to start or check out online resources such as www.goodtherapy.org, www.betterhelp.com, or the Therapist Finder at psychologytoday.com. Be sure to ask about their experience with transgender issues.
- Write in a journal. Writing helps you express your feelings, organize your thoughts, and will become a record of your progress over time.
- Practice self-care. Exercise and good health habits are important for your whole family. Be a role model.
Learn all you can about your child’s new identity and the challenges they may face. Don’t expect your child to educate you. They may still be learning themselves. Focus on positive resources and up-to-date information. Our Resources page at www.strongfamilyalliance.org has pointers. The time you spend learning has many benefits:
- Knowledge reduces fear and worry.
- Information helps you navigate situations and make decisions with more confidence and compassion.
- Tell me more about that.
- How did that make you feel?
- What was that like?
- Can you tell me more?
- Summarize what they said to show you are listening.
- Sibling reactions vary greatly. If they need support or education, help them find it.
- If your child is ready for siblings to know, don’t forget to talk with your other children about this change and how they feel about it or how it affects them.
- Siblings may be embarrassed, or fear others will think they are LGBTQ because their brother or sister is transgender.
- It’s important they understand the risks their sibling faces and why family support is essential.
- Share ourthis website with them if it’s age appropriate — it’s a good starting point if they are struggling.
- School Clubs— – many schools have GSA clubs (Gay Straight Alliance/Genders and Sexualities Alliance) that work with a sponsoring teacher and parents to plan events, service projects, and support meetings. If your school doesn’t have a chapter, talk with a counselor about starting one.
- Online resources from groups such as PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays), GLSEN (focused on LGBTQ issues in K-12) and many others.
- Look for local drop-in or meetup programs. Some communities have church or organization-sponsored after school or social hour resources.
- Find a support group. Organizations such as PFLAG and Trans Families hold meetings for both parents and youth.
- Learn more about prejudice and discrimination based on such differences as race, sexual orientation, gender identity/expression, and religion.
- Monitor your own beliefs about LGBTQ people and how they influence your child.
- Be a positive role model for your child on respectful treatment of transgender and LGBTQ individuals in your community: teachers, coaches/athletes, neighbors, co-workers and public figures.
- Assume that LGBTQ people are in a group even if they have not identified themselves. This can include parties, meetings, teams, classrooms, or any gathering.
- Stand up for all LGBTQ people— – If you hear a painful joke or derogatory comment, push back. If your child hears you, it’s a powerful affirmation. If not, tell them about it anyway. It can mean a lot to know you stand up for them. Examples of verbal pushback include:
- I don’t think that’s funny.
- That comment could hurt someone.
- I disagree.
- That’s a hateful thing to say.
- My child is LGBTQ.
Our Online resources include websites for parents and numerous books.
Listen, Listen, Listen
You need to know what your child is facing. If they can come to you first, they are safer. It may be difficult initially, but keeping communication open — primarily through listening — strengthens your understanding and relationship.
Practice WAIT — Why Am I Talking.
Consider using questions or phrases that encourage them to talk:
Help the Family Keep its Balance
Maintain the ordinary. Keep routines going for school, teams, or extracurricular activities.
Find opportunities for family participation. Activities you can do with all or part of the family help maintain relationships and normalcy. This can be as simple as movies, athletic events, outings, or service projects.
Brothers or sisters are sometimes the first to know, but not always. If it’s news to them, they may have many of the emotions you experience and will need to work through those.
Help Your Child Connect
Help your child find positive connections with other transgender and LGBTQ youth. Isolation leads to feelings of depression and shame. Possible resources include: