Supporting Your Teen This Month
If you’re looking for a way to support your teen as they explore gender and sexuality, you might not be sure where to start. It’s different growing up today compared to twenty and thirty years ago. And even if you think it isn’t a relevant issue in your household, chances are that your teen knows someone their age who does need support. Creating a safe, inclusive space is a wonderful start.
Parents.com shared a few ideas for parents looking for a place to start. According to Regine Muradian, Psy.D., a clinical psychologist, “Parents are key in helping children process their feelings around their sexual identity and gender identity. When kids feel parental support, they feel safe opening up and sharing about their feelings. With parental and community support there are many positive outcomes to their overall mental health.”
The following suggestions are ways you can support your child.
1. Believe Your Children and Provide Judgement-Free Space: Ask open-ended questions: “‘Tell me more about how you feel.’ ‘What does this mean to you?’ and ‘Let’s keep this conversation open,’ allow the child to feel safe and able to share and express emotions in a non-judgmental space.
2. Create an Open, Respectful Environment Within The Home: Encouraging your child to express themself and be comfortable in their own skin is of utmost importance. Let your child play with all types of age-appropriate toys and let them dress and express themselves in any way they like. When we don’t make gender or sexuality a big deal and just go with their flow, we can give children the room to explore and not compulsively try to fit themselves into one neat box.
3. Introduce Them to Diverse Media and Representation: Seeing yourself represented on screen or in a good book is comforting for adults and children. However, for children, it has the added advantage of giving them exposure and vocabulary to address many issues. Simple things like buying them books that have gender-nonconforming characters can be a huge step in normalizing different identities.
4. Encourage Them to Make Friends in The LGBTQ+ Community: Sometimes, no matter how supportive your child’s friends are, they may not “get” it—they can never fully understand what it means to be queer if they don’t hold the same identity. Even then, everyone’s experience is different. Your child may miss out on the experience of relating to other kids and being able to feel the comfort of thinking this person is like me.
5. Encourage Therapy and Support Groups for You and Your Child: It’s okay to not always know the best ways to support your child and you may be anxious about showing up for your child in ways that they need. Support groups have you covered there too. A number of parent support groups allow you to get advice from other parents and may help you expand your and your child’s LGBTQ+ friend circle.
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