How parental support benefits LGBTQ+ youth

How parental support benefits LGBTQ+ youth

Parental support in childhood can play a significant role in an individual’s mental health, happiness, success and more for years to come. In fact, a study shows how parental support for LGBTQ+ youth is especially beneficial.

“Our LGBTQ+ youth are at a heightened risk for developing mental health problems – not because of who they are, but because of the world in which they exist. The protective factor of having support at home is extra important for them,” says Dr. Gabrielle Roberts, a pediatric psychologist with Advocate Children’s Hospital.

Parental support begins by creating a home environment where everyone in the household is encouraged and feels safe to be true to who they are, regardless of what that might look like. If you have a child who is part of the LGBTQ+ community, having this safe space opens a door for them to know they can confide in you when the time is right.

It can be confusing for parents to navigate as they may be unsure how to best support them. Dr. Roberts says allowing the process to be child-led is most important.

“Everyone’s different. Educate yourself, have conversations, ask questions and listen. Let the child guide you when it comes to what they feel ready for and what they don’t. There isn’t a cookie-cutter way to support your child,” says Dr. Roberts.

Parents can seek out their own social support and guidance as well. Dr. Roberts adds that while the online social network piece of navigating parenthood can be helpful and supportive, there are also some pitfalls.

“We need to consider that our children are all different and we need to think about our child as an individual when receiving advice from others. What’s helpful for one parent might not be helpful for another, depending on the child. Also, keep in mind that your child may not feel ready for others in the community to know what they’ve shared with you, so be thoughtful about posting something that may ‘out’ your child before they’re ready,” Dr. Roberts says.

The Trevor Project’s 2022 National Survey on LGBTQ+ Youth Mental Health identifies the five most common ways LGBTQ+ youth reported feeling supported by their parents or caregivers:

  • Being welcoming toward LGBTQ+ friends or partners
  • Talking with them respectfully about their identity
  • Using their name and pronouns correctly
  • Supporting their gender expression
  • Educating themselves about LGBTQ+ people and issues

Dr. Roberts adds that the expectation is not for parents of LGBTQ+ children to know everything or to get it right every time, but owning it, asking questions and learning along the way makes a big difference.

“Growing up isn’t easy and our society can make things particularly difficult for members of the LGBTQ+ youth community. You can advocate for your child, find them a good doctor, be a champion for school programs, and do everything else under the sun, but unfortunately, we still don’t have control over everything. Advocacy is so important, but so is creating a safe space. If we can give our children a soft landing at home, at least if everything else is really hard, they have that to come home to,” says Dr. Roberts.

Looking for an LGBTQ+ friendly health care provider? Find one in Illinois  or Wisconsin.

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  1. Please vote for candidates who will not vilify and ostracize LGBTQ+ children and adults, who will not deny them access to health care and who will advocate for inclusive, safe and equal treatment in education, health care and society in general.

  2. Our Trans children and adults are extra vulnerable in the current political climate.
    Your acceptance is important, now more than ever. Following Trans creators on social media is a great way to self-educate. Not all Trans people have the emotional “spoons” to continually educate the people around them about the minutia of their gender identity. Although, good faith (person specific) questions are almost universally welcomed.

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About the Author

Lee Batsakis
Lee Batsakis

Lee Batsakis, health enews contributor, is a public affairs coordinator with Advocate Children’s Hospital. She graduated from Western Michigan University with a degree in public relations and has worked in health care since 2013. Outside of work, she enjoys reading, exercising, and spending time with her fiancé and two dogs.