As a parent, it is normal if you have questions or concerns about your child that you know or think might be lesbian, gay, bi, trans or any other way. Getting answers to these questions can allow you to better understand the identity and preferences of your child and how to support them moving forward.
How you respond to your child who identifies as LGBTQ+ can have a positive or negative impact on their development and well-being. Below is some guidance on ways to support your child who identifies as LGBTQ+.
It is a good idea to research and read as much information about LGBTQ+ as you can. Today there are many different terms used when describing sexual orientation and gender identity, which can be overwhelming.
Take your time to understand LGBTQ+ and what it means. This will help you to understand your child better and be sensitive to what they might be experiencing and how they might identify.
For a full list of terms related to LGBTQ+, you can access the Stonewall list of terms. To read our information on the topic, you can view our page on LGBTQ+ and mental health and Gender and mental health.
Provide a safe space
It is more helpful if you could set your feelings aside and simply provide a safe space for your child. By letting them know that you are always there to listen and help them with whatever it is they are going through. They will likely feel more comfortable to approach you and let you know what they are experiencing if you take this approach.
Avoid forcing or confronting
You might feel the need to ask them about personal details directly, which might not always be helpful. For many young people, figuring out who they are and going through different experiences can be scary and confusing. It is never a good idea to force your child to do or be someone they are not. This can be damaging to their well-being.
Appreciate their bravery for coming out
If your child took the step of coming out to you, it likely took a lot of courage and bravery. This can be a very stressful and nerve-wracking step for many young people. Responding with love and acceptance is important for your child’s mental health and well-being.
According to research, family acceptance of LGBT young people is associated with greater self-esteem, social support and better physical health among the young people.
Let them know they are loved
No matter how you feel about their sexual orientation or gender identity it is important to remind them that they are loved. This is very important, as treating a child differently might lead them to think that there is something wrong with them. Especially in a society where those who identify as LGBTQ+ can face prejudice and discrimination, it is important to remind them that they are still valuable and worthy.
Be involved in their lives
Try to stay involved with your child in different areas in their life, such as at school, in relationships and at home. You will be in a better position to recognise when they might be struggling and need your help. As a parent who wants the best for their child, you will be able to support them closely and be involved in the decisions they take. Being involved will allow you to recognise when things are not going well and when to intervene.
Encourage healthy relationships
As with all children, it is important to educate them about healthy relationships. Teach them about safe and potentially toxic relationships. Inform them on what they need to know to make the best choices in relationships and avoid those that can be harmful. In the long term, this can help to preserve their mental health.
Stand up against bullying
Be an ally and stand up against bullying and discrimination against your child and the LGBTQ+ community as a whole. No one deserves to be treated differently because of who they are and how they want to identify. Standing up against bullying will let your child know that you are on their side.
Know what NOT to do
Be sensitive to your child and their feelings. Avoid doing or saying things that could potentially affect how they feel and cause them to feel like it is unsafe to be themselves. This might include:
- Trying to force them to change their sexual orientation or gender identity
- Suggesting that it is just a phase, or they will grow out of it
- Saying things like “I could tell” when they come out, which can make them feel embarrassed
- Asking if they are “sure”, which can make them confused and doubtful about their identity
- Discriminating against others in the LGBTQ+ community
Communicating your disapproval about their sexual orientation or gender identity
Know that you are not alone
It is important to know that you are not alone in this experience. There are many other families with an LGBTQ+ relative, who will have shared the same experiences as you. Above all, as you go through this process and learn more, take the time to build a healthy relationship with your child so that they feel safe to simply be themselves and share anything with you.
Children 1st UK
You can find advice about supporting LGBT children on the Children 1st Website. You can click here to access the link.
The BeYou project
You can find advice about supporting LGBT+ children on The BeYou project website. You can click here to access the link.
Family Lives UK
You can find advice about supporting LGBTQ children on the Family Lives website. You can click here to access the link.