Here’s How You Can Help Your LGBTQ+ Child’s Emotional Well-Being

“Every day after school, I didn’t want to go home. I thought about leaving and even looked for places where I could go,” shares Ananya, a 19-year-old gay college student, highlighting the importance of understanding how you can help your LGBTQ+ child’s emotional well-being.

For a long time, Ananya worried about coming out to her family for fear of their rejection. Even while Ananya feels more comfortable being herself at school away from home, she still can’t be completely authentic when she’s among her loved ones. Constant vigilance is required of me. It’s terrible to feel you can’t be yourself with your own relatives.

The effects on LGBTQ+ adolescents who grow up in hostile environments at home and in their communities are devastating. The bullying, rejection, prejudice, and stigma these young people suffer increase their risk for anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation, and homelessness.

Only one-third of the 34,759 LGBTQ+ teenagers (ages 13-24) who participated in The Trevor Project’s 2021 National Survey on LGBTQ teenagers’ Mental Health said their homes were supportive. Without the support of affirming families, LGBTQ children are more likely to attempt suicide, and 75% say they’ve been discriminated against because of who they are.

There have been adverse effects from the pandemic as well. More than 80% of LGBTQ+ adolescents experienced a more stressful living environment as a result of COVID-19, and many have been forced to stay in homes that do not accept them.

According to Myeshia Price, Ph.D., a senior research scientist at The Trevor Project, “The mental health and well-being of LGBTQ youth depend on parental acceptance and affirmation of their identities.” Don’t worry if you don’t feel ready to call yourself an authority on LGBTQ identities. First, learn to listen and empathize without passing judgment.

The mental health of LGBTQ young people improves when they are surrounded by accepting communities, according to studies. The University of Washington researchers found no statistically significant difference in depression rates between LGBT and heterosexual youth in safe spaces.

A year after coming out, Reese*, a senior in high school in New York City, says she feels much better. However, she also claims that many of her friends have not had the same experience.

Reese argues that the most helpful thing parents can do is to confirm their child’s uniqueness out loud, accept that things will inevitably change, and love their child no matter what. She argues that parents’ “love and support” for their kids shouldn’t depend on whether or not they live up to their idealized depictions of them.

Reese warns that the spread of recent anti-LGBTQ+ legislation from one state legislature to other places the mental health of many gay adolescents in danger, even if they live in communities that are accepting of them.

More than two hundred fifty anti-LGBTQ+ laws have been introduced in 2021, according to the Human Rights Campaign. According to a survey conducted by The Trevor Project, ninety-four percent of LGBTQ+ teenagers said that current political discourse had a detrimental effect on their emotional well-being.

Arkansas enacted a bill prohibiting gender-affirming medical care for transgender minors under the age of 18, even with parental agreement, which many medical experts have labeled a frightening government overreach. While school athletics can improve adolescents’ emotional and physical well-being, some states are making it more difficult for those who identify as LGBTQ+ to participate. Eight states ban transgender girls and women from playing on gender-identical teams.

New York City clinical psychologist Sarah Gundle, Ph.D., warns that current anti-LGBTQ+ legislation, among other things, sends a hazardous message to gay adolescents and emphasizes the importance of family support. Young queer people face a disproportionate amount of discrimination and hostility. According to Dr. Gundle, “Their homes must be places of safety and affirmation.” The way our loved ones perceive us has a profound effect on our feeling of identity. The consequences of their rejection of us would be devastating.

Dr. Gundle stresses the importance of parents being present and attentive to their children. Your kid might need you the most right now. Hear them out and do everything you can to set up a network of support. Parents may make sure their child gets support at home and in the community by doing things like enrolling them in counseling, making their child’s school a safe place, and joining LGBT youth support groups. Dr. Gundle also recommends that parents find support from other caregivers who are LGBTQ+.

Blackstone, Virginia nurse and mother of five Melissa Deane, who has fostered and adopted LGBTQ+ youngsters, thinks it’s not too late for parents to change their ways if they haven’t in the past. Parents must keep an open mind and realize that their child may have been thinking about how they identify for a long time, even if they initially thought it was out of the blue or that their child was too young to be thinking about it.

Deane noticed a significant change in her 13-year-old daughter after she moved in with them. Before, she had been the target of rejection and discrimination because of her gender identity. My daughter is less anxious, has fewer suicidal thoughts, is more outgoing, is making friends, and has grown closer to her brothers. I pray that other parents will see my daughter’s success in our family and put their child’s health and happiness before their own by accepting their child’s LGBTQ identity.

Another form of affirmation is making sure you’re using the right pronouns and preferred names. Research released in the Journal of Adolescent Health shows that using someone’s preferred name is linked to less suicidal thinking and less sadness in LGBTQ children. Using the right names shows your child that you are trying, even if you don’t fully understand or aren’t sure what something means.

Allies can also show their solidarity in this way. According to Born This Way Foundation’s head of staff, Josh Meredith, queer youth may feel more comfortable coming out if allies introduce themselves using their pronouns. An ally can immediately begin applying this extremely easy, cost-free, and significant act of kindness. Sharing your pronouns with young people who identify as transgender or nonbinary sends the message that they are respected and supported regardless of their gender presentation.

Positive environments must be more than just “tolerant”; they must be affirming. Although Carly*’s family is not openly homophobic or transphobic, they have not created an environment where Carly feels safe enough to be open about their gender identity. Carly* is a senior in high school in Colorado. Lack of open communication about my sexuality with my parents may be very lonely.

Carly warns that LGBTQ+ young people who don’t feel accepted at home may try to find it elsewhere. Isolated LGBTQ youth at home are more likely to seek to belong elsewhere, where they may be more vulnerable to harm. Substance misuse is two- to four times more common among LGBTQ+ kids than among their straight, cisgender peers, according to studies.

However, many LGBT youth believe things will improve in the future despite continued difficulties. Carly talks about her accepting circle of friends and the increased availability of resources for the LGBTQ+ youth community.

Many organizations have made vital services more accessible by expanding LGBTQ+ virtual initiatives throughout the pandemic. Virtual LGBTQ+ summer camps, PRIDE events, proms, support groups, online summits, and cultural celebrations are all examples of the kinds of online resources we’re talking about here.

Despite the difficulties, and they are substantial, I am optimistic. A shift is apparent to me. Although it may not seem like it at the moment, I hope LGBTQ young people can take solace in the idea that the world is improving.

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