“Fitting in ” is one of the most common stressors facing teenagers. Everyone experiences some form of stress as they grow up, looking for their “tribe” or a place to belong. Kids in the LGBTQ+ community can have more challenges fitting in than their cisgender, heterosexual peers. Some members of the LGBTQ+ community can keep their identities hidden from others, leading to struggles as they grow up and begin exploring adult relationships. Why are kids in this community at an increased risk of harm?
There are many reasons why these kids struggle with their identities. As parents, we might be unprepared to react if our kids come out as a member of the LGBTQ+ community. We might fear how the world will treat them for being “different.” We can support our kids as they navigate their identities no matter who they are. When we accept our children for who they are rather than who we want them to be, we can show them the love and support they need to grow into healthy adults.
Unique Challenges of LGBTQ+ Community
Kids identifying in the LGBTQ+ community can face rejection from essential people in their lives. They might have beloved grandparents or other relatives who cannot accept their new identities. Friends might turn on them for being “different.” Bullies can target these kids and pick on them. The unique challenge that they face is whether or not others will accept them.
Unfortunately, we do not have control over others’ thoughts and actions concerning our child’s identity. We can advocate for them and help reduce the stigma surrounding the LGBTQ+ community; however, we cannot “tell grandpa to be open-minded” or tell the bullies “to be more accepting.” Our kids will face rejection by people in their daily lives solely based on something beyond our child’s control.
The challenge of facing a world that may not be welcoming can increase the risk of harm and the use of maladaptive behaviors for kids identifying as LGBTQ+. Treatment centers accepting of all kids can help if kids struggle with maladaptive behaviors. As parents, we can help them build the resiliency and strength they need to cope with the feelings of rejection they may face. We can also look to building a hopeful future for a more tolerant world.
Increased Risk of Harmful Behaviors and Health Concerns
According to the website youth.gov, LGBTQ+ kids are more likely than their cisgender, heterosexual peers to experience:
- Childhood physical, psychological, and sexual abuse
- Rejection by family and peers
- Inadequate supports in school
- Suicide attempts
- Illegal drug use
- Feelings of isolation
- Overall negative health outcomes
Due to the risk of adverse health and harm, it is crucial for families to provide unconditional love and support inside the home. While we cannot control how people react outside of our homes, we can learn to accept and foster tolerance within our parent-child relationships.
What Can Parents Do to Help
If your child comes out as LGBTQ+, you might have thought that your child was not cisgender or heterosexual. Conversely, you might be completely blindsided by this revelation. Either way, your emotions are yours to manage and not for your child to feel like they “did something wrong.” If you need time to process your child’s identity, then give yourself the time to do. You might need to talk with your parenting partner, a trusted friend, or another support person.
One of the best things that you can say at this moment is that you are honored that your child has come to you. This can let your child know that you are not only accepting of them but that you are proud of them for having the courage to come to you. If your child is coming out to you, they risk rejection and are in a vulnerable space. Be kind, gentle, encouraging, and supportive of them.
When kids grow up feeling supported and safe at home, they translate these feelings to the rest of the world. They can learn love and acceptance, thus knowing unhealthy or abusive relationships if they arise. By providing an accepting place for your kid no matter how they identify, you can help them build the self-esteem and confidence necessary to be a healthy, happy adult.
LGBTQ+ kids will face enough rejection by the world-at-large. When kids feel accepted in their own homes, and within their families, they at least have a safe, supportive place to be themselves.
Kids identifying as members of the LGBTQ+ community are at an increased risk of harm and adverse health than kids that our society considers “normal.” They might be at a greater risk of attempting suicide, being abused, using illegal drugs, isolation, depression, or anxiety. All kids need unconditional love and acceptance, no matter how they identify. We can help reduce the risk of harm for LGBTQ+ kids by embracing them in their identities. We might need to learn more to understand how to connect them to positive role models or support as they navigate their identity. Treatment centers, like Fire Mountain Residential Center of Estes Park, Colorado, are welcoming to all kids. If your child struggles with problematic behaviors like illegal drug use, alcohol abuse, cutting, running away, promiscuity, or other issues, we can help. For more information on our residential program, call us today at (303) 443-3343. We’re here to make your family’s fire burn brightest!