How Talk Therapy Can Be Helpful for Your LGBTQ Teen
If your child has recently come out to you as being transgender or non-binary, you might be panicking and wondering how to support them through the next chapter of their life. Coming out at any age takes tremendous courage, and your child might still be feeling anxious and afraid about what this realization means for them.
Seeking out ways to support your child through this time already shows how much you love them. Although you may not know what to say or do in this moment, know that the most valuable thing you can offer your child is love and acceptance. To help you continue to provide as much support as possible, we have put together several therapist-approved strategies.
Learn About Gender Identity
Gender and sex are not the same thing, and this is often the biggest misconception and point of confusion for parents whose child has just come out. Sex is a biological fact, but gender is a social construct that is generally comprised as “masculine” or “feminine.” When your child does not feel like the gender they were assigned at birth, they may decide that they want to live as the opposite, in which case they would be transgender. Non-binary gender, on the other hand, encompasses a wide range of gender expressions that may nor may not relate to someone’s sex.
You can learn more about gender, transgender and non-binary experiences through sites like the National Center for Trans Equality, the Trans Youth Equality Foundation, and the American Psychological Association.
Rather than ask your child, “Why do you want to be ____?”, you can speak with them about their feelings and thoughts. This process can help you understand them while allowing them to vocalize emotions they have likely been struggling with alone for a long time. Questions are only questions; expressing a desire to understand your child’s feelings, rather than putting them in a defensive position, shows you care about their mental health and experience as a transgender or non-binary person.
Accept the Answers Your Child Doesn’t Have Yet
Just because your child comes out does not mean they fully understand what they want to do next. Transitioning takes time, and the timeline is different for everyone. Ask your child what steps they’d like to take next. Do they have a name they would like to go by? Would they like to start wearing clothes that are better aligned with their identity? They might not fully know what they want to do yet, and that’s okay. Both of you can move forward at your own pace. There is no rush.
Allow Yourself to Accept and Even Grieve
You can accept your child unconditionally and still feel a loss over who you thought they were. Your hopes and dreams for their future are different, and it’s natural to feel confusion and even pain about their transition. Siblings will also need time to understand and adjust to your child’s new identity. But no matter what their sexuality or gender, your child is still the same person. Their incredible personality, sense of humor, aspirations and strengths do not change based on who they love or what gender they identify as.
However, it is still important to acknowledge the importance of their decision to come out. Being transgender or non-binary doesn’t define a person, but it is a large part of who they are and how they see themselves and their place in the world.
Get Help Together
Counseling for LGBTQ can help you support your child while addressing any difficult thoughts, feelings or fears you have about their transition. Children can work with a counselor to address their changing needs and mental health including problems common among transgender and non-binary youth. We also offer family counseling that helps the entire family adjust to the change and be as supportive and accepting as possible.