How to Support Your LGBTQ Friends
If your friend is part of the LGBTQ community, you likely want to show them all the love and support in the world. Whether you’ve always known or they recently came out, acknowledging and celebrating their identity is a great way to be a good ally. Sometimes, people who aren’t familiar with LGBTQ identities inadvertently offend their friends. They might go over the top with their support to the point it dehumanizes their friend or embarrasses them; they might tell them that being gay or transgender “doesn’t matter”, which unintentionally dismisses a core part of their life.
This guide will help you be a more supportive friend and create a more inclusive and accepting world for everyone.
Learn About Their Experience
Be open minded and willing to listen to your friend’s evolving experience as an LGBTQ individual. What have been their greatest sources of pride? What are their biggest challenges and fears? You can support your friend solely by being present and listening. You don’t need to fully understand their experience to be supportive. Just the act of being there can give your friend a much-needed sense of acceptance that so many LGBTQ people go without.
Do Not Sexualize Them
Your friend’s gender identity and sexual orientation are not oddities; as individuals, they are not educators or responsible for answering any and all questions you have about how sex and love works for someone who isn’t cisgender or heterosexual. Although you might genuinely be asking from a harmless position of curiosity, asking your friend questions about their sex life can dehumanize them and deny their body autonomy.
You also don’t want to imply through your questioning that there’s a right or wrong way to be intimate. Sex looks different for everyone, and it is a personal matter that isn’t immediately open to discussion just because someone identifies as LGBTQ.
Find Good Resources to Help Them
LGBTQ people are more likely to experience mental illness, prejudice and discrimination. Even as full-fledged adults with careers and a good support system, they may carry wounds from a non-supportive family or bad experiences from the past. You can help them by educating yourself and knowing what resources to direct them to if they ever need help. Local therapists and support groups that offer LGBTQ services can provide a safe space that’s understanding of your friend’s experiences and needs.
You can also educate yourself on some of the warning signs of poor mental health in your friend; identifying issues and reaching out to them when things are difficult can be life-saving.
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.
How Talk Therapy Can Be Helpful for Your LGBTQ Teen
For many LGBTQ teens, feeling safe and open to discussing their often conflicting feelings is difficult. Mental illness affects teens in the LGBTQ community at a much higher rate than their cisgender, heterosexual peers; LGBTQ teens are six times more likely to experience depression and four times more likely to have thoughts about suicide or self-harm. The most concerning statistic is for those whose families reject their identity. LGBTQ teens from non-supportive families are eight times more likely to attempt suicide than those whose families are accepting of their identities.
You only want what’s best for your child, but you may not know how to handle their emotions and unique experiences as an LGBTQ individual. Whether they are questioning their gender or sexuality, recently came out as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, it’s critical for them to feel like they are loved, supported and whole exactly as they are, no matter who they love, what their pronouns are or who they wish to become in the future.
Talk therapy for LGBTQ teens takes both age and experience into account. The mental health of teenagers is already characterized by unique challenges, including struggles with body image, self-esteem and identity. When a teenager is also facing other challenges related to their sexuality or gender, it can have a compounding effect on their mental health. In therapy, they will be able to gain support, guidance and acceptance while learning how to cope with any underlying mental health issues they are experiencing.
Cope With Prejudice and Bullying
LGBTQ teens are twice as likely as their peers to experience bullying, violence and sexual assault. Learning how to recognize the warning signs of an abusive relationship, setting boundaries and building resilience are all topics that can be covered in therapy. Some teens may feel more comfortable discussing situations with a third party than with their parents. Rather than forcing them to open up about experiences with their family, a therapist allows them to work through feelings in a safe space and reveal things on their own terms.
Build a Good Self-Esteem
When a teenager feels like their sexuality or gender is different than what they consider “normal,” they’re more likely to suffer from low self-esteem. They might feel like they are broken or damaged because of who they are attracted to or how they see themselves. In transgender teens, body dysphoria can also trigger depression and self-loathing.
Part of a therapist’s job is to help every client see the inherent value in themselves regardless of where they currently are in life or what struggles they are facing. For an LGBTQ teen, this means building a solid foundation of positive self-talk and personal regard that they can rely on as they grow.
Treat Mental Health Issues
Because LGBTQ youth are more likely to experience mental illness, therapy is always beneficial to assess their current mental health. Most mental illnesses present themselves before age 14, but far too few are ever addressed during adolescence. By participating in talk therapy, your teen can get help for any psychological symptoms they’re experiencing and prevent them from worsening in the future.
Therapy helps teens let go of judgement and recognize the value in their identity. Different forms of talk therapy can be used depending on their needs, including cognitive-behavioral, emotionally-focused, and body-centered approaches. If you are interested in learning more about our services or scheduling a virtual or in-person counseling appointment for your teen, contact Caring Heart Counseling or request an appointment today.
7 Mental Health Resources for LGBTQ Teens
Coming out as LGBTQ is a life-changing moment, but not everyone experiences the same sense of liberation and acceptance. Many teens can’t come out because they know they’ll face serious backlash from their families or communities. Even after you come out, your mental health struggles don’t magically disappear.
It’s okay to be scared and wondering whether it’s even a good idea to let others know who you are. While you figure out the right time to open up to your friends and family, Caring Heart Counseling is here to provide you with resources to get the support you need and deserve.
The Trevor Project is a non-profit organization that offers 24-hour crisis counseling for LGBTQ+ teens. In addition to a list of resources, they also provide telephone counseling and a chat that you can connect with anytime.
The LGBT National Youth Talkline is available to anyone 25 and younger who needs someone to talk to. You can reach them at 800.246.7743 for 100-percent free and confidential support. You’ll have a safe space to talk with someone about issues including sexuality, gender, anxiety, problems with school, family troubles and relationships. You can also call simply to vent and be reminded that someone out there cares and you’re never truly alone.
When you’re new to relationships, it’s hard to know what’s healthy and what’s a red flag. If you aren’t out yet, you might find yourself trapped in a bad situation and not even able to get help from family or friends. Love Is Respect offers information on sex health, dating and support for victims of abuse. You can read their site or call them at 1.866.331.9474.
If you aren’t safe at home or are thinking of running away, call 1-800 RUNAWAY (1.800.786.2929) to speak with a trained responder who can help you figure out what to do and how to stay safe. You can also chat or use the forums to talk to others in similar situations. It’s always better to reach out, explain what you’re going through and receive help rather than put yourself in danger.
Help Guide published a variety of articles on topics ranging from a teenager’s guide to depression to eating disorders and suicide prevention. If you want a one-stop source to learn all the basics about a variety of mental health subjects, this is a fantastic place to start.
NAMI dedicates itself to offering help and resources to LGBTQ teens, regardless of whether they’ve figured out their own identity yet. Here, you can learn about important LGBTQ statistics and learn how to find a good mental health professional who treats LGBTQ teens.
Caring Heart Counseling
Our Denver, Colorado theapists offer LGBTQ and gender identity counseling. Whether you need someone you can confide in or help dealing with problems like stress, anxiety or depression, we’re here to listen. Our therapy sessions are confidential, and we can help you work through your problems in a safe, non-judgemental space.
Counseling / Virtual Counseling
Telecounseling for Teens in Denver
Life as a teenager is tough. As they are beginning to develop their own values and figure out their identities, teenagers face a tremendous deal of stress during the final years of childhood. Many are already making decisions that will impact their future for years to come, which naturally comes with a great deal of stress that can trigger anxiety and depression. Adolescence is also the onset period for many mental illnesses.
Adolescent counseling can provide support and guidance to teens even amidst social distancing and the coronavirus.
Common Reasons Teens Attend Counseling
Many adolescents feel like they’re being “forced” to go to therapy by their parents who “think something is wrong with me.” But therapy is not a place designed to fix anyone, because no one is broken. People all have their own unique struggles, but we believe that our experiences are just that. They do not define us no matter how much they may impact us.
Teens can benefit from counseling if they are struggling to stay motivated in school, experiencing conflict at home or going through a difficult time. Trauma, anxiety and depression are common mental health conditions that teenagers can overcome with the help of a licensed professional.
The earlier a teenager gets help for whatever they’re going through, the greater the chance of a long-lasting recovery. Far too many people stay trapped in the shadows of stigma, longing for help but too afraid to get it. Whether you are a concerned parent or a teenager yourself, there is no shame in getting help. Counseling, either in person or online, can provide the tools and support necessary to heal and grow.
Signs Your Teenager Needs Counseling
Every parent worries about their child, but how do you know when your problems warrant professional help? Generally, when an issue is beyond your scope of understanding or has begun to cause serious disruptions to your family life or teen’s ability to function, it’s a good idea to speak with a counselor.
Certain behaviors pose a significant threat to your teen’s well-being, and they may indicate underlying mental health issues. For example:
- Substance abuse
- Angry outbursts
- Criminal activity
- Avoiding friends and family/sudden change in friends
- Changes in sleeping and/or eating habits
- Isolated, withdrawn attitude
- Dramatic changes in personality and behavior
- Talking or thinking often about death/self-harm
The later teenage years also mark the onset of mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Having an honest discussion with your teenager about any concerns you have can help them feel more comfortable opening up. Sometimes, teens just need to be reminded that people do care about them and want to listen.
Ways to Help a Struggling Teenager
You might often feel like your teenager is from an entirely different universe when they speak. Parents often wonder, “Was I like that to my parents?” when they begin to struggle to have even basic conversations with their adolescents. Teenagers are not speaking in code or generally going out of their way to be distant; they might be embarrassed or ashamed of what they’re feeling or even too afraid to confront it through a conversation.
The best thing you can do as a parent is to be fully present without being overly persistent. The harder you push, the farther your teen will pull away. Offer to do activities with them that they enjoy. Even something as simple as eating dinner together or watching a movie can have an impact on a teen’s sense of support and security.
Don’t invade their privacy without any necessary reason to do so, but keep an eye on any concerning behaviors. You may want to check their social media accounts or internet history if you worry they might be engaging with harmful content or talking to strangers.
Keep Communication Focused on the Positive
Most importantly, let your child know that you love them and want to hear what they have to say. Teenagers often worry their parents will judge them, argue with them or even hate them for voicing their true feelings. Although you may not always like what you hear, you must respond to your teenager’s emotions with empathy and understanding. Use affirming statements during conversation such as, “That sounds really hard,” and “Thank you for sharing this with me.”
If you bring up the subject of therapy, let them know that getting professional help is a good thing, not a sign of failure or weakness. Ultimately, therapy is for your teenager to receive help and provide a safe space to disclose whatever they’re going through without fear of judgment. Therapy is a resource, not a punishment. It should never be leveraged as something needed to “fix” them or correct their behavior.
Telecounseling for Teens
We offer online therapy for teens with licensed counselors in the state of Colorado. Talking to a therapist online can be a good stepping stone for many teens, and it’s the best way to get support even during the coronavirus pandemic. To learn more about our services or to request an appointment, please click here.