How to Help Our LGBTQIA+ Kids During the Holidays

The festive charm of holidays, from Halloween to the Fourth of July, is something my child particularly cherishes. We take great joy in decking our house in preparation for these grand celebrations. Together as a family, we’ve already embarked on planning parties, gifts, and, most crucially, the perfect holiday outfits. My 4-year-old, born a boy, loves adorning a cute holiday dress or tutu as much as he loves a classy dress shirt and bow tie. This duality highlights an essential aspect of our parenting journey, namely, how to help our LGBTQIA+ kids during the holidays, ensuring they fully participate in the festivities while expressing their unique identities.

I have never worn a skirt, but I would never stop my child from going to a family party in their favorite outfit. At the same time, I would never put them in a position where they could be scolded by a family member for expressing themselves with an item of clothing. I don’t want this year’s Christmas to be remembered as when a family member scolded them for expressing themselves with an item of clothing.

I don’t know if my child is part of the LGBTQIA+ group or not, but this is something that families with LGBTQIA+ kids have to deal with every holiday season. For many queer teens, the holidays may not be a time of peace and joy but of stress and danger.

Why It’s Important to Help LGBTQIA+ Youth Over the Holidays

People often see the holidays as a time of happiness and getting together. However, they can be difficult for certain people, especially young people who are still developing their identities and going through a period of rapid change. A young person may see their family for the first time since changing their look, name, or gender. We’ve all been there in our tween and teen years. Especially for LGBTQIA+ youth, being asked questions about their identity could be a source of worry. As the holidays get closer, they may worry about things like, “Will my family call me by the wrong name all day?” “Will I have to deal with being called names because I’m gay?”

Sadly, many LGBTQIA+ young people say their homes don’t support them.

In the 2022 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health, done by the Trevor Project, only 37% of LGBTQ youth said that their home was a safe place for them. As hateful political speech and heartbreaking acts of violence against LGBTQIA+ people have gotten worse in recent months, many LGBTQIA+ young people may feel especially stressed or scared about spending time with family members who don’t accept them or don’t care about them and who support some or all of the hateful political speech.

Parents should also be ready to stand up for their LGBTQIA+ children and be kind and supportive. Parents and other caretakers are often the first line of defense when it comes to setting the tone for the kind of help their children get. A kid’s safety is the primary responsibility of parents and other caretakers. This could mean setting rules about physical touch, making sure food is safe, or making sure people don’t say hurtful things about who they are. If you hear something that could hurt your child, you should face it immediately.

How to Make a Plan With Your LGBTQIA+ Children And Family Members Before A Visit

Even though we should be ready to step in if someone makes an anti-LGBTQIA+ remark at dinner, it is just as important to talk to our queer kids before going somewhere that might not be friendly.

Before going to see family, make sure to:

  • When someone in your family makes a mistake, ask your child how they would like to be supported.
  • Prepare answers for unsupportive comments.
  • Find out how your child tells you it’s time to go.
  • Set rules and standards with your extended family.
  • I don’t mind staying at home.

Check to see what your child needs before you get there.

People often mistake my child for a girl because they have long hair. When they were 3, I started asking them, “If people think you’re a girl, do you want me to correct them?”

My 4-and-a-half-year-old daughter dressed up as a princess for Halloween last year. I asked them while I was putting on their cap, “People might think you are a girl. Do you agree with that, or do you want me to tell them to change it?” Their answer has always been, “Please don’t say anything.” I continue to listen to what they want instead of telling them what I think.

As you start making plans for holiday parties, you can also start having honest talks with your LGBTQIA+ child about the kinds of questions people might ask and what they think are the best ways to answer. Figure out what they want to discuss with family and what they’d rather not.

For example, your child may want to be ready for comments like, “Using they/them genders is too confusing for me, so I’m going to keep calling you “she.” But they might choose to avoid more general anti-LGBTQIA+ comments like, “It seems like they come up with even more pronouns and identities every year.”

It’s also a good idea to give your child a way to let you know when they need help. This can be as simple as your child interrupting a talk to say, “Excuse me, I have to go to the bathroom,” and then coming to find you at a party.

It’s also important to know how to tell if your child is stressed and to ask them if they’re okay if you have any doubts.

Check-in with members of your family to set clear limits.

In addition to planning ahead with your LGBTQIA+ child, you should also be clear with the rest of your family about what you expect from them. Setting clear and hard rules before getting together for the holidays can help keep things from getting awkward. If your sibling or parent is having a family event, you might want to talk to them ahead of time and say something like, “It’s really important that my kid feels safe and comfortable coming to your house as themselves. I don’t want them to worry that someone will say something bad about who they are. Do you think you can help me make sure that happens?”

To keep your child safe during the holidays, your family should want to follow the rules and limits you set. If they aren’t ready to work with you to ensure your child is comfortable, you might think twice about taking them to their house.

Some family members may want to help your child, but they may not feel like they have the skills or tools to do so. They are lucky that they can go to many places to learn the basics and best ways to help LGBTQIA+ young people.

You might not want to have family get-togethers.

Parents often ask The Trevor Project if they should bring their LGBTQIA+ child to a family event where they know a family member will be rude or say bad things about LGBTQIA+ people. Even though that’s a decision that each parent and family needs to make for themselves, people should know that these kinds of actions, even if they don’t seem like much, hurt LGBTQIA+ kids in real ways.

Research shows over and over that queer kids who aren’t accepted and supported for who they have a higher chance of having bad mental health, including a higher risk of suicide.

The Trevor Project’s study, on the other hand, found that LGBTQ youth who felt a lot of social support from their family were less likely to try suicide than those who felt a little or a lot of social support.

The most important thing should be your child’s mental health.

I also want parents and families to think about how they would handle this case if it were about physical harm. If a family member who could hurt your child literally asked you to introduce them, what would you do?

This might seem like a much easier choice for many people. As our society gets better at removing the shame from mental health problems in young people and meeting their needs, parents should treat the risk of physical and mental harm as equally bad for their kids. Both a child’s physical and mental health are important to their well-being, and they go hand in hand. All parents should do what they can to make sure their child is healthy, even if that means skipping the normal holiday party to spend time with supportive or chosen family members instead.

Your deeds do matter, so make sure they do.

It’s important to always think about how your actions affect your child’s safety and trust in you as a safe and caring parent. If you know you’re putting your child in a place that could be dangerous, but you don’t back down because you want to keep a holiday tradition or spend more time with extended family, know that this could hurt your relationship with your child for a long time. They might think you don’t care about their health and safety, which can stress your relationship greatly.

It’s also important to think about how not going to a family party because you know or think you know some family members are prejudiced can affect your bond with your extended family. There is no right or easy way to handle these situations because each person’s condition is different. As a parent or caretaker, you should start by asking, “What is the best choice for my child’s health, safety, and happiness?” Use that answer to help you.

How to be there for your LGBTQ+ family members.

If you haven’t spent much time around gay people, it might be difficult to figure out how to aid your LGBTQIA+ children or loved ones. You might feel confused by all the different names and words that people use in our community. If you haven’t spent much time around gay people, it might be difficult to figure out how to aid your LGBTQIA+ children or loved ones. You just need to be kind and respectful in everything you do. And love and acceptance for no reason.

Researchers have found that LGBTQIA+ youth feel supported when their parents and caregivers talk properly about their queer identities, are welcoming and kind to their queer friends or partners, and learn about issues that affect them.

These steps are as easy as they sound, and they can have lasting good effects. They have been linked to queer young people having better mental health. Youth suicide attempts were reduced by 40 percent when adults talked to them respectfully about their LGBTQIA+ identities. These findings contribute to a growing corpus of research demonstrating the positive effects of positive reinforcement on young people’s mental health.

Long gone are the days when I could choose what my kids wore and how they did their hair. Even though I thought it was too soon, I can’t wait to see what my kid wears to our family’s Christmas party. I don’t care how they dress or decide to identify in the long run regarding their gender identity or sexual orientation. All I care about is making sure my child is happy and healthy, and I want them to remember our holiday parties with fondness, not as something they had to suffer through.

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