Parental Support for LGBTQ+ Youth Mental Health
Parents and caregivers who show support, even through simple actions, can help lower suicide risk and bolster their LGBTQ+ youth’s mental health.
June is Pride Month in the United States. It’s a time when many LGBTQ+ community members gather to celebrate their experiences, support one another and advocate for equal rights and opportunities.
Approximately 9.5% of youth ages 13 to 17 in the United States belong to the LGBTQ+ community, according to a 2020 survey conducted by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law. According to the Human Rights Campaign, LGBTQ+ youth say the most important problem they currently face is lack of acceptance from their family. They are also two times as likely to have been harassed by peers at school.
Supportive action by parents and caregivers can have a significant effect on their LGBTQ+ youth’s mental health, new research shows, lowering the risk of suicide among LGTBQ+ youth overall. According to the Trevor Project, most LGBTQ+ young people (75%) feel accepted when their parents or caregivers welcome their partners or friends into their lives.
Here are five ways parents can support their LGTBQ+ youth’s mental health during Pride Month, and all year long.
Listen to your child and encourage open dialogue
When a child comes out, or speaks openly about their LGBTQ+ identity, it’s important to listen to and respect what they have to say. If you aren’t ready to have these open conversations, or believe that speaking with your child will lead to an argument, it can be helpful to take a step back and focus on learning more about your child’s identity. Listen respectfully to what your child is saying without interrupting them, punishing or ridiculing them.
Respect and affirm your child’s identity
When children come out, some parents and guardians initially struggle to understand their child’s identity. Additionally, for some parents of transgender or non-binary youth, it can be difficult to adapt to their child’s chosen name and pronouns. However, it’s important to use a child’s chosen name and pronouns regardless of personal feelings. Being there for your child and reminding them that you love and care about them can foster a safe and trusting environment.
Advocate for your child
Youth in the LGBTQ+ community often hear negative things about their identities. Parents or caregivers can be a great buffer against some of the negativity.
Parents can learn how to advocate for their children, such as filing a complaint with their child’s school if they are facing discrimination or bullying, as well as teaching them how to protect and advocate for themselves.
Find Supportive Health Care Providers
Mental health providers who are supportive of LGBTQ+ kids often use affirming language on their website. For physical health providers, GLMA has a helpful database of providers.
Seek Out Support and Education on the LGBTQ+ Community
Parents and caregivers should seek out support for themselves as it is difficult to adjust to something they have never experienced. Accept and acknowledge what you don’t know and seek out support with the facts. Support groups, which can provide a safe space for parents to process thoughts and emotions around their child coming out, can be especially beneficial.
The Trevor Project: The Trevor Project | For Young LGBTQ Lives
GLAAD: Young Adult | GLAAD
Stopbullying.gov: LGBTQI+ Youth | StopBullying.gov