Part of supporting LGBTQ+ kids is understanding the different concepts behind gender identity and sexual expression, and the issues or feelings your child might be experiencing, so that you can have conversations with them as and when these issues arise.
Whether your child has recently come out or you wonder if perhaps they might identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community later on in life, it’s no doubt important to you to support them in any way you can. LGBTQ+ youth face some unique challenges that set them apart from their peers, which some parents can feel unprepared for.
Don’t Make Assumptions
Everyone is different and this means our life experiences also vary. With this in mind, try not to make assumptions based on what you know about LGBTQ+ issues and mental health. It’s always better to ask your child what’s going on for them specifically, as you might be surprised by what you learn, and how this might challenge what you thought you knew.
It can also help to read about other people’s experiences to improve your understanding of these issues. There are plenty of helpful resources you can turn to to educate yourself on sexual diversity and how best to support your kid, which takes the pressure of your child in having to educate you and also shows that you’re willing to put in the effort to support them.
Open Up Dialogue
As any parent will know, getting kids to open up can feel like a huge challenge. But being curious about their life and interested in their passions can help to build trust and encourage a dialogue between you both. Ask them about their day, what they learned at school or what they’re interested in.
Don’t be discouraged if it’s difficult at first – it can take time, but the more you communicate with your child, the more comfortable they’ll feel talking to you about their life. If you feel like there’s a subject you’d like to discuss, take a less direct approach with them. For example, if you’re watching a film or TV show with them and there’s a bisexual character. You can then use this to spark a conversation with them in a way that feels less personal.
Kids can be worried that being different from others around them will cause problems for them. They might feel pressure to change who they are or be worried about coming out to family and friends. This constant worry and fear can wreak havoc on their mental health and general happiness.
So, reassure them that questioning their sexuality or being different is completely normal and healthy. Let them know that there’s no pressure for them to come out until they’re ready and that you’ll be there to support them if and when they decide to.
Encourage Healthy Relationships
As your kids get older, it’s natural for them to develop romantic interests in other people. Dating can be daunting for parents, but it’s an important aspect of growing up. Make sure they stay connected but safe by encouraging them to date in a way that’s healthy, age-appropriate. Let them know that LGBTQ+ relationships are normal. Many LGBTQ+ kids use online spaces to meet like-minded people, which can be a great way for them to connect with other people their age.
It’s not just romantic relationships you should encourage either, but also friendships with other people in their community. Encourage family members and others to respect your child’s sexuality. Welcome your kids’ friends or partner to family events and take an interest in their relationships. It’s also important to refer to their partner as their partner, not as their “friend”. This can be hurtful and feel dismissive of their relationship.
A person’s sexuality doesn’t change who they are as a person. But as a kid, feeling like you’re different can be worrying and nerve-wracking. It’s understandable that as a parent, you want what’s best for your children. You might be concerned that the stress and anxiety they are feeling could be detrimental to their well-being. Take the time to talk to your child and let them know that they can confide in you without judgement. This can really help with their mental health and feeling supported.
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