Supporting LGBTQ+ youths
For LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer) youths, supportive environments are the best buffers against stressors. The support of family members is especially protective — being valued by family members helps kids learn to value and care for themselves. But rejection by family members is a known contributor to poor mental health.
Negative health experiences of LGBTQ+ youths
Even if you’re uncomfortable with your loved one’s gender identity or believe it is wrong, you can still find ways to offer support. A caring family is critical because LGBTQ+ youths experience increased rates of:
- Suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts and self-harm
- Depression and anxiety
- Drug, alcohol and tobacco abuse
- Sexual assault and physical violence
- Discrimination and harassment
Because of family rejection or abuse, LGBTQ+ youths are more likely to end up in child welfare and juvenile detention settings. They are also at a higher risk for homelessness.
Promote strong LGBTQ+ mental health
When you learn your child or teen is LGBTQ+ — directly or indirectly — wait to have conversations until you can:
- Educate yourself
- Remain calm
- Effectively listen to what your child says
- Acknowledge your child’s feelings
- Reflect back and show empathy
Next, follow these tips to improve your child’s resilience and personal well-being:
Open, non-judgmental communication
Talk to your child about identity by asking questions in open and non-judgmental ways. Express that you are willing to have conversations about gender identity so they know they can come to you.
Advocate for your child
Go to bat for a loved one who is mistreated or disrespected in any setting, including family gatherings and school. Ensure your child has access to locker rooms and bathrooms that make them comfortable. If religion and spirituality are important to your family, find a congregation that welcomes and supports all of you.
Support gender expression
Accept your child’s preference for books, media, clothing and hair styles. Use the name and pronoun your child prefers. When you learn your child is LGBTQ+, don’t change the ways you express affection. And, if your loved one has LGBTQ+ friends or partners, welcome them into your home and family events as a way of affirming your acceptance.
Connect kids with resources
Bring your child to LGBTQ+-related events or connect them with a respected LGBTQ+ adult role model. Also, find supportive providers —pediatricians or therapists — to care for your child’s health and mental well-being. Providers can also identify helpful resources.
LGBTQ+ parent support
It’s important to remember that even if your initial reaction is negative, your feelings might change. Parents and caregivers often become more supportive after accessing resources for themselves, including:
- Support groups or connections with other parents raising LGBTQ+ youths
- Therapy for yourself and your co-parent
- Educational materials
The UCLA Health EMPWR Program provides resources for LGBTQ+ youths and parents, including:
- Stress management
- Coping skills
- Resilience building
- Conflict resolution
- Psychiatric and mental health support
Contact us or request an appointment by calling 310-825-7573. You can also view our webinar, Caring for LGBTQ+ Youth: Tips for Parents & Caregivers.