Did your child or teen express to you that they are gay or lesbian? Or bisexual? Maybe they are questioning their sexual orientation? Or do you suspect they may be afraid to share their sexual orientation with you? Are you unsure of how to support your child or teen through this process? Do you want to give your child a safe space to explore this topic? I can offer support to you and your child or teen as you work through this process together. Continue reading to learn how LGBT child & teen therapy might be the answer for your family.
When your child comes out to you or you suspect that they are struggling with their sexual orientation, you may not know exactly what type of support to provide for your child. The situation can create anxiety for you and your child. Your child may be fearful to disclose their sexual orientation and you may be fearful about how to respond to them. Although our society has come a long way in regards to diversity and acceptance, there can still be stigma attached to LGBT identities. It is only natural as a parent for you to experience concerns and worries when thinking about your child’s future, knowing they may run into stigma and non-acceptance.
LGBT Children, Tween, and Teens
LGBT children and teens may face unique difficulties that you as a parent may feel unprepared or unequipped to handle. For many children and teens, coming out to their parents about their sexual orientation is the scariest situation they have ever faced. However, your support is a very important factor in their development and overall life satisfaction. Remember your child does not expect you to be the expert in this area, they just want to know that you love them no matter what. Family therapy can be very beneficial for you and your child or teen during this journey.
Why is Family Therapy Important?
In general, parents tend to shy away from talking to their children about sex or sexual orientation. Society creates a certain stigma about being open about sexuality, making it difficult at times to start conversations with our children regarding these topics. Parents often find the topics awkward; this situation can be magnified if you find yourself talking to your child about a sexual orientation that you do not share and may not know a lot about. Children and teens often do not make this an easy job for parents! It can be difficult getting your child to open up to you.
However, creating a dialogue with your child or teen will make your child feel more comfortable and also create a sense of trust and safety, making it more likely they will communicate with you in times of need. Family therapy can provide a safe space for some of the more challenging conversations to take place. Family therapy can also assist you in learning new communication skills and tools to help improve your overall family communication. It is important to remember that this is a process–it will take time for both you and your child to accept and become comfortable with their identity.
Individual LGBT Child & Teen Therapy
LGBT children and teens may experience feelings of being “different.” The child or teen may not always understand what this means to them. However, because society has reached a greater acceptance with LGBT identities children may recognize these feelings at an early age. They may begin to explore gender or same-sex relationships as early as preschool or kindergarten. For other individuals, the identity becomes clearer at puberty when they begin to experience “crushes” or sexual attraction to others.
For many individuals, this is a time of excitement and exploration of their sexual identity as they begin to discover who they are. However, for others, it can be a period of anxiety and stress. Children and teens are often faced with immense pressure to fit in, which has only become magnified by a society obsessed with unrealistic expectations broadcast on social media. Teens may not only fear coming out to their families, but they may worry about what this will do to their peer relationships as well.
Some children or teens may suppress or hide their feelings and identities in order to fit in at their schools or in communities. However, this may have a negative effect. Suppression and hiding feelings may lead to feelings of isolation. This can then cause children and teens to experience symptoms of anxiety and depression and place them at an increased risk of mental illness. Individual therapy can help children or teens to explore their identities and come to an understanding of who they are. Therapy can assist individuals in processing feelings and working toward empowerment as they discover their place in society.
Sometimes you as a parent may want support or guidance in how to best support your LGBT child or teen. Many parents, even while being very supportive, may not be familiar with the topics and may need their own support during the process. You may not know the correct terminology to use when talking to your child or teen. Or you may not realize that advocating for your child just became a lot more challenging as you work to make sure your child has safe spaces to learn and grow. Maybe you simply want to be more educated on your child’s experience and want to learn what to look for if your child or teen is struggling.
It is important to note that each child will take their own path to self-discovery of their identity, just as you will take your own path to acceptance of your child’s identity. Parental support and acceptance is critical to your child’s happiness and their overall well-being. Individual therapy can offer you the help you need to fully support your child or teen on their journey.
How LGBT Child & Teen Therapy and Family Connections Therapy Can Help
If you or someone would benefit from LGBT child & teen therapy, you don’t have to do it alone; we can offer help and support. I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and I received my doctorate in Marriage and Family Therapy from Alliant International University. I am passionate about LGBT children and their families and working to empower them. My doctoral dissertation was written on prepubescent transgender children and their families. I examined families in depth and looked specifically at the issues that impacted them as their children went through the transition process. Additionally, I have 10 years of experience working with children and their families in various settings. For more information please check out my bio here.