What can parents do to help reduce mental health risks for LGBTQ+ youth?
Best practices include engaging in honest and open conversations with your youth in a patient manner focused on listening. How a parent chooses to interact with their youth is vital to their mental and physical health. When your youth comes out, it’s important to respond in a supportive manner and let them know that you accept and love them for who they are. Try talking with them, understanding how they are feeling, and even let them know you are generally supportive even if you have concerns or disagreements. Look out for any important signs that may indicate that your child is facing mental health challenges such as anxiety, depression, or suicidal ideation and may need additional support from a mental health or medical provider. Research has shown that having one supportive adult can lessen the likelihood of suicide by as much as 50%.
Research indicates that youth in unsupportive families, will experience negative outcomes on the mental and physical health of LGBTQ+ youth. Rejection of a child's sexual orientation or gender identity has been connected to an increased risk of depression, usage of drugs and alcohol, and overall risky behavior.
Centers for Disease Control; Dr. Jason Rafferty MD, MPH, EdM; The Trevor Project
What can parents do if their children are experiencing bullying, harassment, or discrimination?
If you discover that your child faces bullying, it is important to first validate their experience, let them know that you believe that they are being mistreated, and that you are there to support them. It’s important to be their number one advocate and ally.
Advise your children to take the following steps:
Don't give into the demands of the bully, and avoid engaging with the bullies if possible.
If that does not work, be firm with the bullies, speaking clearly and loudly and letting them know their behavior is unacceptable and there will be consequences, such as going to a teacher or other nearby adult.
As a parent, you probably often teach your child to be kind and courteous to others, and they might not be used to being firm and assertive, or your child might be naturally shy. You can find more information on teaching assertion and helping your child work on being shy here.
If the bullying is severe or does not stop, consider talking with your child’s teacher, counselor, and school about what is going on. It’s important that you support your child and by going to your child’s school, you can ensure that they go to school without having to worry about becoming a target.
What can parents do to encourage resiliency in their LGBTQ+ children?
It’s important to encourage your children to foster and maintain strong friendships. If your child does face bullying, they can rely on their network of friends and their community to support them. Creating a supportive community for children is important no matter there sexual or gender identity, but is especially important for those in the LGBTQ+ community. Encourage your children to join clubs and after school activities, as well as attend community events where they can socialize with and meet other children like them.
For more resources go here.
How can I get involved and advocate for my child?
Get involved with your child’s school. Join the PTA or your local diversity committee or get involved with the school board. Volunteer in classrooms and get involved in local events that will allow you to have your voice be heard. You can advocate for your child there. You can also provide input to the school that directs them to be more inclusive on paperwork, celebrations, curriculum, etc.
Stay abreast of local, county, and state policies that protect LGBTQ+ children’s rights in schools. If there are no policies that are designed to help protect against discrimination, advocate for policies those policies. You can subscribe to advocacy and nonprofit organizations in your area, such as EQLOCO to receive updates on policies that affect you and your family. In addition to keeping track of policies, locate local LGBTQ+ organizations or organizations that support the LGBTQ+ community and get involved. Volunteer at pride events, donate to charities, and support your child.
What are some additional resources for being the parent of an LGBTQ+ child?
There are many organizations that offer resources for parents. Here are a few of them:
On their website, PFLAG has a section of their website that is dedicated to providing resources for LGBTQ+ youth’s families to understand how to support their LGBTQ+ child/family member.
Gender Spectrum is another organization that provides resources for parents or family members that are interested in parenting resources, educational resources, legal and policy resources, mental health resources, sports and youth program resources, and more.
The Human Rights Campaign, on their website, provides resources. Under LGBTQ+ you they have a featured topic which contains links and articles that provide resources for Parents of LGBTQ+ youth.
HealthyChildren.org, has an article that is dedicated to answering questions that parents may have about how to raise a Gender-Diverse child. These include what to do, how to be supportive, what treatments are available for children who identity as Transgender, more information etc.