It’s tough to parent a pre-teen or teenager. Life can turn into an alphabet soup of controversy and conflict – MTV, SATs, STDs, JLo… GLBT? When sexual orientation and gender identity enters the picture, even many “open-minded” parents are thrown for a loop.

Parents may start to wonder whether their child is gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered for a variety of reasons. Maybe your young son likes to play “dress up” in Mom’s clothing and makeup. Or your pre-teen daughter would rather read comics than “YM.” Perhaps your teenager dropped some hints, or even came out to you.

First, don’t panic! It’s normal for children and younger pre-teens to experiment with what it means to be a boy or a girl. Older adolescents often question their identity as part of the growing-up process.

Second, don’t panic! GLBT kids need the support of their families more than ever. The worst thing you can do is withdraw from your child, or exclude him or her from the family. (An estimated 30% of homeless youth identify as a sexual minority; most are homeless because their families threw them out, or were physically or emotionally abusive when their identity became known.) Your child is still the same person you know and love. If your teen came out to you, recognize you’ve been given a gift: their trust in you, and their desire for you to really know who they are.

Third, educate yourself. You should know: Homosexuality is not considered an illness or defect. Sexual and gender identity seems to be something we’re born with, not something created by “bad parenting” or “poor morals.” There are GLBT people in all professions, cultures, religions, and walks of life. With support from family, friends, and community, GLBT youth grow up to be as happy and healthy as their heterosexual peers.

Fourth, get support. It’s normal for parents to struggle with conflicting feelings over having a GLBT child. A sensitive, experienced therapist can help you and your family work through grief, shame, anger, and estrangement, with the goal of keeping family relationships intact. Support groups such as PFLAG (Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbian and Gay) can also be helpful.

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Author's Bio: 

Shelia M. Addison, MA, LMFT
Open Circle Family Therapy
Denver, CO 80222

720-352-0621 - Office