How to Help a Child Who Is Trying to Figure Out Their Sexuality or Gender

As parents or guardians, comprehending and accepting our children is paramount, especially when they are on a journey of self-discovery, trying to figure out their sexuality or gender. It’s only natural that if your child is gender non-conforming or exploring their sexuality, you may feel like you’re in uncharted waters, wondering how best to provide them with the support they require. Thus, knowing how to help a child who is trying to figure out their sexuality or gender becomes a crucial part of your parental guidance.

Clinical psychologist and children’s author in Glendale, California, Dr. Regine Muradian, Psy.D., says, “Parents are crucial in helping children process their feelings around their sexual identity and gender identity. Children encouraged to talk about their feelings by their parents are likelier to do so. Many beneficial outcomes for their mental health can be expected if they are provided with parental and community support.

Below, you’ll find five suggestions for helping your inquisitive or out child.

1. Put faith in your kids and provide them with a safe place to be themselves.

San Francisco’s Family Acceptance Project has found that when families are accepting of their LGBTQIA+ members, it improves their health and reduces their chances of suicide, depression, and substance addiction.

Parents should recognize the significance of their children coming out to them about their sexual orientation or gender identity. One that is terrified of your reaction and anxiously hoping that you will still adore them no matter what you have to say. Your youngster needs to know that you believe them. Even more so if your child is young, it can be tempting to say things like “It’s just a phase,” or “They’re confused,” or just ignore the problem. Saying these things, though, can break up a relationship for good. If these are your initial reactions, take your time to process them; in the meantime, show your child that you have faith in them.

Anjali*, a 23-year-old queer woman, wishes her mother had understood her worries more. I wish she wouldn’t second-guess me about my sexuality when I tell her who I really am.

Co-creator of the GenderCool Project and parent to a transgender adolescent of 15 years of age, Jennifer Grosshandler, emphasizes the significance of hearing your child out. Grosshandler claims that Chaz was self-aware from an early age. “Transgender children, like any other children, typically have a solid sense of their own identity.” She responds to those who dispute a child’s ability to be so certain by saying, “I often offer a question in reply… You may have been a boy or a girl, but how did you tell? What was it like?'” the kids always want to know. Give them your faith, and you’ll see them succeed.

Open-ended questions, such as “Tell me more about how you feel?” are recommended by Dr. Muradian. How does this make you feel? and “Let’s keep this conversation open” create an atmosphere where the youngster can open up without fear of being judged.

2. Foster an at-home community of mutual respect and openness.

It’s crucial that you help your kid find their voice and accept who they are. Avoid stereotyping them and viewing them through a heteronormative lens if you want to avoid being accused of policing their gender or expression. Give your kid free rein to wear whatever they want, play with whatever toys they want, and express themselves any way they want. Allowing children to explore their identities without forcing them into a predetermined mold is possible when adults refrain from placing too much emphasis on gender and sexuality.

Sora B.*, mother of a gender-nonconforming 9-year-old, explains, “Alpha is our first child, and her father and I have worked hard to instill in her the idea that there is no such thing as a “girl thing” or a “boy thing.” As she got older, Alpha “didn’t gravitate toward things based on gender;” she wore and played with anything she found interesting.

If you take this step, your child will feel more at ease approaching you with questions or concerns regarding their identity. Sora thinks her child came to talk to her right away after realizing she might be genderqueer because of the supportive atmosphere they grew up in.

Emery*, a 24-year-old queer, asexual, nonbinary person, attributes much of their identity to their upbringing. Emery reflects on how her parents’ opposition to same-sex partnerships shaped her identity as a gay adolescent. “I wasn’t trying to ignore the reality of my sexual orientation; rather, I was terrified of giving in to my queer impulses, even if I wanted to,” he says.

3. Get them exposed to media with accurate representation of diverse groups.

Sora explains that the group “actively seeks out media that is inclusive” regarding LGBTQIA+ identities, main character gender [representation], and ethnic diversity. To paraphrase, “We want to make sure our kids know that straight white boy doesn’t automatically mean most important.'” Her child finally found the words to describe how she felt thanks to a novel featuring a transgender protagonist. Sora believes that the media may aid in developing the language needed to express one’s core values.

Adults and kids alike find solace in seeing themselves portrayed positively on TV or in a well-written book. On the other hand, it can help children learn about and develop the language to discuss gender and sexuality. The simple act of giving them books with non-binary protagonists can go a long way toward normalizing identity diversity.

4. Help them meet people who share their identity as LGBTQIA+.

Even if your child’s friends accept, they may not “get it” because they do not have the same identity and cannot truly understand what it means to be gay. Even then, people have various reactions. If your child isn’t exposed to other LGBT youth, they may miss out on the social benefits of being with people who share their identities.

You can enroll them in LGBTQIA+ -specific camps, join support groups that encourage playtime or organize playdates with other queer children in the area or at school to encourage and aid the process of establishing friends in the LGBTQIA+ community. But have a conversation with them about what makes sense to them. Queer youth can find community and support in online safe spaces. The creators of The Trevor Project made an app called TrevorSpace for LGBTQIA+ young adults (those between the ages of 13 and 24) to assist them find like-minded peers.

Astrid*, a parent, felt it was crucial to connect her nonbinary child, age 9, with others who shared their experiences. Astrid explains, “The kids could play and get to know one other while I attended a support group for parents.” I also signed them up for an LGBTQIA+ summer camp. When I picked them up on the first day of camp, they were beaming with excitement.

5. You and your kid should try therapy and join a support group.

When faced with something as monumental as choosing a name or establishing an identity, a youngster may feel completely overwhelmed. Friendships can be challenging when you don’t feel “normal” or like you fit in with your peers. There’s always the risk of peer pressure and exclusion for your kid in school. All of these are concerns that need monitoring and attention. There is no shame in seeking outside assistance, such as from a support group or therapist, for your child.

Feeling uncertain and worried about being there for your child in the ways they need help is normal. There are groups available to help with that as well. You and your LGBTQIA+ child may find a welcoming group of new friends at one of the many parent support groups available.


Every child is unique, and that fact must always be kept in mind. If you pay close enough attention, your kid will probably tell you what they need. The most crucial thing is to be present and available for your child and to do as they ask.

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