By Anne Dohrenwend, PhD, ABPP

LGBT children are more likely to be bullied at school, to see their future as limited because of discrimination, and to turn to alcohol and drugs to numb the pain of stigmatization and oppression.

Sadly, lesbian and gay children are two to seven times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers. The suicide rate is even higher for transgender kids who suffer the highest rates of bullying in the school setting. Here’s the good news. When parents accept and support their LGBTQ children, these risks are reduced. In fact, LGBT children who report feeling accepted and supported by their parents are less likely to resort to self-destructive behaviors to cope with discrimination and more likely to engage in healthy coping behaviors. Family acceptance serves as a buffer against the negative effects of bullying.

How can parents support their gay children? Here are a few tips discussed in Coming Around.

1. Tell your child you love him or her. Avoid saying things like, “I still love you” or “I love you anyway.” These qualifiers signal disappointment, and that disappointment will blot out whatever support was underlying it. Just stick with the tried and true, “I love you.” No conditions attached.

2. Tell your child that you are not going anywhere. Let him or her know that, regardless of anything you said or thought about homosexuality in the past, you see it as your job to learn more about it now.

3. Be physically present and spend time together. When a child discloses his or her sexual orientation to a parent, it is a moment of risk. He or she may fear outright rejection  or, in the absence of rejection, a negative shift in how he or she is seen by the parent. It is important for parents to dispel this fear by a display of affection. A hug and a kiss will signal, better than words, that being gay doesn’t mean being unlovable or unworthy in any way. In addition, spending time doing familiar activities together will remind both child and parent that little has changed. Sexual orientation is a part of identity, but it is not the whole or even among the greatest aspects of one’s identity.

coming around glbtComing Around: Parenting Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Kids addresses a wide range of questions that parents might ask about homosexuality. It offers practical guidance for parents who want to do the right thing for their LGBT children.

The topics covered include gay issues associated with health care, legal rights, marriage, and having children.  Coming Around: Parenting Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Kids is available at major on-line retailers now or directly through the publisher, New Horizon Press, http://newhorizonpressbooks.com/new/comingaround.php

 

About the Author

Anne Dohrenwend, PhD, ABPP, is assistant program director of the Internal Medicine Residency Program at McLaren Regional Medical Center, Flint, Michigan and an associate professor at Michigan State University. She works with parents and young people coping with LGBT issues. She has a PhD in counseling psychology from the University of North Dakota and is board certified in Clinical Health Psychology. Anne and her partner live in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

 

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