Today, LGBTQ+ youths may feel more comfortable accepting their sexual identity than in past generations, but coming out can still be challenging, especially when it’s to family members. It’s not uncommon for LGBTQ+ teens to seek the support they need from online communities and trusted friends before talking with you.
But what happens when your teen does come out to you? Do you know what to say to provide the best support for your LGBTQ+ teen? We know it may be a challenging area for many parents and caregivers, but your support is critical to their mental health.
According to the 2022 national survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health by the Trevor Project, 45% of LGBTQ+ youth seriously considered suicide last year.
Times have changed regarding the societal acceptance of gender identity, and you may have difficulty understanding it, based on your own opinions. But your teen needs to know you love, value, and support them. Keeping an open mind and genuinely listening to what they say is one of the most powerful ways to show you love them, no matter what.
What to Keep in Mind When Your LGBTQ+ Teen Confides In You
Many LGBTQ+ youths put off telling their family about who they are inside because they’re unsure of how they’ll react. Some may feel fear of judgment, disappointing their parents, or in some cases, even physical harm.
Unfortunately, because of these fears, LGBTQ+ teens may attempt to suppress their fears and feel “different.” They may not fully understand their feelings and need support to find answers they’re unsure of. Suppressing their feelings, concerns, and questions can harm their mental health. They need to talk to someone supportive. In an ideal world, that would be you, their parents.
Nobody said the conversation would be easy for you or your LGBTQ+ teen. In fact, you should expect lots of emotions to arise: relief, excitement, sadness, worry, and confusion. The important thing is to recognize and validate each of these emotions rather than reacting.
Here are some essential things to remember when your LGBTQ+ youth wants to talk to you about their sexual or gender identity:
- You, your child, and your family must understand that acceptance is typically a process. It takes time to be able to provide the complete support that LGBTQ+ teens require. Be patient and gentle with your child and yourself.
- Your child may have wanted to talk to you for a long time. It takes a tremendous amount of courage to have the conversation finally. Make sure you let them know you appreciate their willingness to confide in you.
- Your LBGTQ+ teen doesn’t have all the answers. They need your support to help them navigate their questions and concerns.
- Understand that sexuality is not a choice your child is making. When you support your child, you allow them to be their most authentic self.
- While you may not completely understand your child’s feelings and identity, you must remain present in your parenting role. There’s nothing wrong with finding your own parent support groups for parents of LGBTQ+ youth.
Tips for Providing LGBTQ+ Support for Your Child
The key to strong family relationships is ensuring your home is a safe space for open communication. Even going beyond gender and sexual identity conversations, if you make it a practice to speak openly with your child about other topics, you’ll create room for them to feel more comfortable when the time comes.
Here are some helpful tips for when your child speaks to you about their gender and sexual identity:
- Listen: Even if you’re caught off-guard, don’t worry about saying all the “right” words. You don’t have to have a speech prepared. The important thing here is to be a good listener. If the only thing you can say is, “Thank you for confiding in me. I love you and support you,” that’s great for the first conversation. (Again, be patient with yourself.)
- Love Unconditionally: Love and accept your child and what they are experiencing. It is your job as a parent to love your child, period. While you may not agree on every point, you can still let them know you love and support them. Don’t look to “blame” anything or anyone. Just love them.
- Ask Questions: Don’t be afraid to ask questions to learn more about your child’s feelings. While they may not want to divulge that information right away, they are more likely to open up when you show interest in what they are experiencing.
- Connect Your Teen With Others: Many LGBTQ+ youth feel disconnected because they’ve been keeping a secret for so long, afraid of judgment. Once they come out, connecting them with LGBTQ+ supportive communities at school and in your area is a great idea.
- Advocate for Your Child: Unfortunately, your LGBTQ+ youth will likely be a victim of bullying in one form or another. Make sure your child is open and honest with you about any instances, and stand up for them when you can. Let it be known that any derogatory terms, jokes, and slurs based on gender identity or sexual orientation are not to be tolerated.
- Educate Yourself: It’s okay if you don’t understand it all. But the more you educate yourself on the LGBTQ+ youth community, the better support you can offer.
- Set up LGBTQ+ Therapy For Them: LGBTQ+ teens are vulnerable to depression and anxiety and have a higher suicide rate than heterosexual teens. In fact, 18% of LGBTQ+ teens made suicide attempts in the past year. That’s twice the rate of heterosexual teens.
Even if you provide unwavering support and do all you can to show your child is loved, they may still need LGBTQ+ therapy to fully understand and process their feelings and emotions and what to do next.
Finding LGBTQ+ Therapy for Your Teen Could Be Life-Changing
Let’s face it, being a teenager is hard enough. But when your teen or young adult wants to explore and learn about their gender and sexual identity openly, there are even more challenges. They face bullying, fear of rejection, angry family and friends, and an overall misunderstanding of what it means to be LGBTQ+ in our society.
One of the most important things you can do for your child is to find LGBTQ+ therapy specializing in helping teens and young adults navigate this challenging time in their lives.
If you are in the Chicago area, our team of experts here at Dayrise Wellness is ready to offer a welcoming, non-judgmental, affirming space for your teen or young adult to explore their identity freely.
Because we only see teens and young adults in our practice, we’re well-versed in understanding the unique struggles your child may be experiencing. We not only provide customized mental health support for your LGBTQ+ teen, but we’ll also involve you in their mental health journey. Together, we can provide the support your teen needs to help them live freely as their authentic self.