I have the privilege of working with teens around many aspects of their lives including sexuality and reproductive health. While my professional focus is on the health and well-being of teens, adolescents live with and are accompanied by parents. My day to day encounters often include a significant amount of conversation with parents. Now, most parents are a bit uncomfortable discussing their teens reproductive health. Add in sexuality that differs from the majority, and the conversation becomes even more challenging. These terms may change, but all of them mean their teen is disclosing they are a sexual minority.
So what can parents do if their teen tells them they are lesbian, gay, bisexual, pansexual, queer, transgender, or gender fluid?
- Show support. Your teen will have to face the world as a sexual minority, make home a safe place even if you disagree with what they’ve disclosed
- Get help and support from other parents, community members, and friends. An amazing organization that has local chapters is PFLAG (Parents, Families, Friends of Lesbians and Gays)
- Watch out for signs of depression. LGBTQ youth are more likely to be bullied, have depression, and suicide attempts. If your teen is showing signs of depression (social isolation, changes in sleep, disinterest in previous activities) or talking of suicide seek help. See your primary care provider or meet with a mental health professional.
- Take them in for their yearly physical. Seeing a medical provider is an opportunity to ask questions, get information, and a chance for your teen to learn some autonomy by speaking alone with the provider. Their provider can screen for depression/anxiety and counsel on reproductive health concerns.
- Be an advocate. If your teen comes out to family and friends on social media (or face to face), please show your support. This can be as simple as making a comment, “I love you unconditionally” on their social media page or saying the same thing to a family member who may not support your teen.
- Ask questions openly. Your teen may start to show you things they’re interested in like the gay straight alliance at school, or ask your opinion on dating. If you’re not sure how to respond, ask them. A comment such as, “Remember when I said I love and support you. You’ve just told me some things. How can I follow through on that love and support now?”
This is definitely not an all-inclusive list. If you have other tips for parents of LGBTQ youth please share them.
Welcoming Schools – The Human Rights Campaign