When children struggle with their gender identity, we as parents may also struggle to understand these changes. We might have had expectations about who our child would grow up to be. We are now adjusting to this change and might have very little information on what our child is experiencing. We might also fear for our child’s safety in the outside world. Hate groups and other individuals create a hostile environment for children identifying as LGBTQ+. We might worry about the difficulty and challenges that they might face as they grow up. Our concerns over our children experiencing violence due to their identity might feel overwhelming, and we may worry about what to do to keep our kids safe.
Past Models of “Treatment”
In the past, gender identity or sexuality that differed from the norm might have been considered something that was “wrong” with the person and required treatment. In fact, homosexuality was, at one point, classified as a mental health disorder. Thanks to the work of advocates and allies, the world is becoming more accepting of different gender identities. When your child comes out, this does not mean that something has “happened” to them that needs to be “fixed.” Conversion therapies in the past have been found to be ineffective and unnecessary. Acceptance of various gender identities and sexualities has helped create a safer and more welcoming world for individuals to be who they were born to be. If a child comes out as homosexual, bi-sexual, trans, queer, gender fluid, or another identity, we need to remember that they need unconditional love and acceptance to thrive in their lives.
Affirming Your Child
Paul Gross speaks with Fire Mountain’s Aaron Huey during the podcast, “LGBTQ Kids and Their Parents,” about how parents can understand what their child is going through. Parents can find acceptance and build compassion for their children by affirming them no matter who they are. Kids need unconditional acceptance in the home to thrive in the outside world. When a child feels unaccepted and insecure in the home, they might grow up thinking that the world outside will not accept them. They might hide who they really are, possibly leading to addiction, depression, or other severe issues.
Your child might have been pondering their identity long before they came out to you. Our kids know that we have expectations for them in many of the things that they do. You might want your child to become a successful lawyer or a doctor, or take over a family-run business. Kids feel nervous about failing to meet our expectations. They might hide these differences from us and fear that we won’t accept them. Remember to love and affirm your child for whoever they choose to be. While this may be challenging, our kids can thrive best in an open and honest environment.
Adjusting Our Expectations
We might have dreamed of our children growing up to get married and start a family. We may have wanted them to grow up to select a particular career path, go to college, or excel at sports. Our expectations are only for us, though; our children have the right to make their own decisions in life. We might need to process this change of expectations for ourselves while not putting these feelings onto our kids. Our kids are going to be who they are. We might need to take time for ourselves to process the change in our expectations. We can help our children by accepting and understanding their identities.
Learning More and Building Cultural Competency
When a child comes out, we can be honest and say things like, “I want to take some time to learn about this.” We might not understand the culture of the LGBTQ community and can take some time to research the topic to build cultural competency. We can invite our children to educate us about their experiences as we explore their identities. Our kids can open up to us about their experiences when we ask things like, “what does your identity mean to you?” Organizations in Colorado, like “Inside Out” and “Queer Asterisks,” can help parents find resources and connect with others. These organizations can also teach us ways to keep our kids safe as they navigate these changes in a world that may not entirely accept their identity. By fostering open and honest communication with our kids, we can build compassion for them, no matter who they are or who they choose to become.
When our children struggle with their gender identity, they might be hiding their authentic selves. Kids might not want to disappoint us, as parents, if they feel that they are failing to meet our expectations. We can learn more about their identities to develop cultural competency and foster a welcoming environment for our kids. When we accept and affirm our children for who they are, they can grow up knowing that they are loved and celebrated. We can connect to other parents through LGBTQ organizations throughout the country. When struggling with gender identity, our kids might become withdrawn, isolated, or frightened. They might have issues with their mental health or develop unhealthy coping mechanisms if they struggle to feel accepted. If your child is dealing with issues like depression, anxiety, addiction, cutting, or other problems, Fire Mountain Residential Treatment Center can help. We have a welcoming, safe, and open environment for all kids. Call us today at (303) 443-3343 for more.