Being a parent to a teenager can be tough, but things can get more complicated if they are part of the LGBTQ+ community.
You may feel worried about saying the wrong thing, disrespecting them, or making them feel invalidated.
Furthermore, it can be tough out there for the LGBTQ+ community. You may fear how your teenager will be treated outside of the home.
This is why it’s so important to support them and make them feel like they belong.
In this guide, we’ll help you understand why it’s important to safeguard your LGBTQ+ child’s mental health and how to be the most supportive parent you can be.
1. Advocate For Them
Unfortunately, LGBTQ+ teenagers are at a greater risk of being bullied at school (see also “How To Overcome Bullying + Helps Younger Victims“). It’s an upsetting thing to think about, but it’s a fact.
As a parent, it’s important for you to advocate for your child and speak up when they can’t.
You can help them approach teachers at school if they are facing harassment and discrimination, and hold the school accountable for their shortcomings when it comes to protecting its students.
Before you start advocating, you need to make sure that your teenager is comfortable with it. Creating an open dialogue with your child is crucial so you know you’re doing the right thing for them.
The last thing you want to do is go behind their back and break their trust; it might even make the bullying worse.
2. Avoid Shaming
One of the most important and easiest ways to support your LGBTQ+ teen is to simply be supportive!
Depending on where you are in the world, your child might feel alone and ashamed of who they are.
By showing you care, they will eventually open up to you, and when they do, it’s important to listen and not invalidate them with phrases like “it’s just a phase” or “you’re confused.”
If you don’t support and understand how your child identifies, then they will feel like no one else will either. Shaming them can only lead to feelings of guilt and loneliness.
You need to accept them first, so they can feel accepted by the world.
3. Don’t Push Them To Come Out
Coming out is a process that shouldn’t be rushed. It’s a milestone in an LGBTQ+ person’s life, including your child’s, so they will reach it at their own pace.
Your teenager might be comfortable with certain people knowing their sexual orientation, identity, or gender, but not yet ready to tell the world.
You can show support by allowing them to navigate this themselves and be there for them when they need advice about how to do it.
4. Educate Yourself
Even by reading this article, you’re already taking steps to educate yourself about LGBTQ+ teens and the ways you can support them!
You should keep educating yourself to get a better understanding of the specifics of your child’s identity.
There are plenty of resources out there to help you comprehend the challenges your teenager might be facing.
And you don’t just have to read through research papers and articles!
There are incredible fiction and nonfiction books with LGBTQ+ themes, and award-winning films and TV series that do an amazing job of depicting LGBTQ+ people in an honest and truthful light.
It’s also a good idea to research LGBTQ+ history, such as Stonewall. The history is extensive, fascinating, shocking, and not something they teach in schools.
With enough research, you might even be able to educate your teen about their history as an LGBTQ+ person!
5. Provide Representation
As well as educating yourself with LGBTQ+ media, you should also provide your child with it so they can feel represented as an LGBTQ+ person.
Seeing people like themselves in popular media will help them feel accepted and proud of who they are!
Thankfully, the media is much more representative nowadays, so you won’t have trouble finding some amazing content.
6. Seek Support
If your LGBTQ+ teen is really struggling with their identity, then you can seek support from mental health professionals who specialize in LGBTQ+ issues.
This will give your child another outlet to express themselves and someone who can help them understand themselves better.
It can also be beneficial for you as a parent to reach out to one of these professionals.
They can give you more advice about how to support your LGBTQ+ teenager and give you a safe space to express your thoughts and feelings without judgment.
7. Speak About LGBTQ+ Relationships Normally
With teenagers comes the dreaded puberty! It’s a tricky time to navigate for any parent, and you’ll notice that their interest in romantic relationships (see also “Do High School Relationships Last?“) will begin.
During this time, it’s important to reinforce that LGBTQ+ are normal and that there is nothing wrong with them.
This is important even if your child hasn’t expressed that they’re anything other than cisgendered and straight.
When speaking to your teen about dating, be inclusive. Ask questions like “Do you have a crush on any boys or girls in your class?”
It’s a simple way to reinforce the idea that it’s okay if they’re gay, bisexual, transgender, or any other gender or sexuality.
8. Treat Them How You Would Treat Any Child
The bottom line is that teenagers just want to feel “normal,” and the best way to do this is to not treat them any differently than you would a heterosexual, cisgendered person.
They’re your child, so do what a parent would do and treat them as such!
Show interest in what they’re interested in, praise them to build their confidence, be there when they need to talk; these are all part and parcel of parenting.
No one said parenthood was easy, especially when you’re parenting a teenager!
While having an LGBTQ+ teen can complicate this, once you know how you can support your child, and you have educated yourself about the LGBTQ+ community, you’ll be able to give your teenager the best start in life.