1. Educate yourself
By reading this article, you are already helping LGBTQ + children learn more about the specific barriers they face, but both experts say that one’s education should not stop there. “There are a lot of resources for people,” says Dr. Zeshan. Specifically, we recommend viewing the following resources:
- Gay and Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN): This non-profit is created by teachers and is committed to making LGBTQ + students a safe place to learn. Find a chapter in your area or contact them to get started in your area.
- Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA) Network: The GSA Network provides training in schools and communities and has a wealth of educational resources on its website.
- Improves the project: This global nonprofit creates media programming and community-based programs related to LGBTQ + education and support. Their website has plenty of expert videos as well as gay, lesbian, bi, transgender and queer teens.
- Healthychildren.org: Founded by the American Academy of Pediatrics, this nonprofit is not only focused on LGBTQ + issues, but also has many helpful articles, including ways for parents to promote healthy gender development in their children and information for parents of LGBTQ + teens.
“The best way to show support for LGBTQ + children is to show solidarity,” says Dr. Khazan. He explained that as it can be taboo to identify as LGBTQ + in our culture, there is a good chance that the child will feel alone, embarrassed and hesitant to open up to you. That’s why he says it’s important to listen when and when they do, to listen and not leave, or to say they are “confused”.
For parents, Dr. Zeshan says having an open discussion with their children without trying to embarrass them makes them feel guilty as if they need to feel guilty or hide their identity.
When an LGBTQ + child feels excluded from their family, it is especially harmful, Dr. Khazan added. “Adherence is one of the most important foundations of development, and your parents are the first people you normally associate with someone,” he says, explaining that parental rejection can disrupt the development process.
“When a child feels overwhelmed or rejected by the most important people in their lives, it is destructive and breaks their ability to be resilient,” he added.
3. Treat any child the way you would like to be treated
They just want children to feel “normal,” and one important way to show support for LGBTQ + children is to treat them like other children, according to Dr. Khazan. To do this, she added that she is interested in what she is interested in and praises when she is good at building trust, just as you can with a non-LGBTQ + child, she added.
4. Offer LGBTQ + representation
Reading a book and watching a movie or TV show with LGBTQ + characters will help your child feel represented. Read Brightly has a list of books for young people and teens, and OK2bMe has a list of all kinds of media to explore.
5. Defend When Necessary
Because children identified as LGBTQ + are at greater risk of bullying, Dr. Zeshan encourages parents to defend their children when necessary. “A parent can help a child file a complaint at school if he or she is discriminated against or bullied,” he says, adding that this will be the responsibility of the school’s anti-bullying rules.
But before filing an official complaint, Dr. Khazan says a parent should talk to their child to make sure it is what they want to do. “Some kids are afraid that talking will make bullying worse,” she says. “It’s important for parents not to go after the child and do something, but to make a plan together.” He added that seeing a family counselor can be helpful in discussing opportunities together.
6. Let the child get out of his or her timeline
“Getting out” is a process, says Dr. Zeshan and Dr. Khazan. A child may feel comfortable with certain people knowing their orientation, gender, or identity, but may not be ready to tell others yet. They both say that the best way to show support is to let the child guide the timeline.
If you and your LGBTQ + child in your life plan to attend an event that will not be accepted by everyone (for example, at a family reunion with unacceptable relatives), Dr. Zeshan says it’s best to have a conversation. about what the baby may have encountered before. “You can share any concerns, the child can share theirs and come up with ideas together in the best way possible. [navigate the situation]”says Dr. Zeshan.
7. Find health care providers
Both experts say there are easy ways for parents of an LGBTQ + child to find a physical and mental health care provider who can confirm their child. They both say that mental health providers who support LGBTQ + kids often use affirmative language on their website, which is something to keep in mind. As for physical health providers, Dr. Zeshan says GLMA has a helpful database of providers, adding that you should not underestimate the power of word of mouth.
LGBTQ + youth and suicide statistics show how important it is to help LGBTQ + children. Being the only supportive and lovable adult in their life can cause all the changes, and there’s no reason why an adult can’t be you. Even if you don’t know an LGBTQ + child in person, the way you talk about LGBTQ + matters is important in shaping society and whether it will be accepted or rejected.
Connect with a consultant
If you are in crisis or have suicidal thoughts, call Mental Health America’s 24-Hour 1-800-273-8255 or send a message to a live online chat service for help from a trained consultant. If you are in immediate danger, call 911.