It’s a popular topic right now, and rightfully so.
Gender identity, specifically in kids and teens, has been at the forefront thanks to the increasing conversation on what it means to be transgender or gender fluid in today’s world. At Rice Psychology Group, we’ve seen an increasing number of children and teens who believe that the gender they were assigned at birth is not the correct one. Many are questioning what gender really means, if they must choose one or the other, and some are certain their “assigned at birth” gender does not match their identity.
For most teens, the hardest part of struggling with their gender identity is bringing up the topic with their parents. Understanding how to begin this difficult conversation and being unsure of whether or not their parents will understand can be terrifying. And dealing with gender issues while believing you have zero support from your family is heartbreaking.
For parents, the idea that your baby boy may identify as a girl or may reject the concept of one gender entirely is not only uncharted territory, but virtually unfathomable. So how do you support your child if you don’t even know how to begin thinking about this topic, let alone talk about it? Perhaps you are wondering if it is possible to have a productive conversation with your child if you are just beginning to learn and educate yourself on this issue.
Our licensed psychologists and therapists in Tampa want to share a few helpful resources that guide parents who are struggling with their teen’s transition.
- Let your child know that you love them and that you will be there to support them. This may be hard to say, especially when you don’t agree with or like what they are telling you but it is critical and tops our list of recommendations.
- Let them teach you. Be curious. Ask them to explain all of the new words you are hearing (such as non-binary; gender fluid). This will show them that you are interested in their lives and their experience. You can also educate yourself (see below).
- Do your best to listen non-judgmentally. This means keeping a close watch on your facial expressions, tone of voice and the things you say about others.
Rice Psychology Group would like to add that there is an extremely high risk of transgender teens struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts. Our first goal is always to ensure our patient’s safety. We hope all adults understand how critical this time is in a child’s or teen’s life and how vital your role is in helping them feel safe and accepted. Kids who have parental support and acceptance do remarkably better than those who face rejection and judgment from their parents.
In past blogs, I’ve mentioned my dear friend, Tammy Plunkett. Tammy is a writer and writing coach who has a story as inspirational as the content she writes. I want to share some insight she has shared about her journey with her son, Mitchell, who transitioned from female to male. And Tammy just published a most helpful book entitled “Beyond Pronouns.” I encourage you to visit her website or jump on Amazon to check out her book.
More Ways To Learn
As we all continue to educate ourselves on this issue, myself included, it’s vital that we use credible and reputable sources. I found “Transgender Teen: A Handbook for Parents and Professional Supporting Transgender and Non-Binary Teens,”, to be extremely helpful. If you have any resources on this topic that have aided you along the way, please feel free to send them my way. And as always, know you are not alone. Our team at Rice Psychology Group is here to provide guidance and support for your entire family, during this journey. You can book a complimentary 10-minute consultation with one of our licensed psychologists here.
Two More Great Resources
Have you heard of the Trevor Project?
It’s was formed over two decades ago to help prevent suicide in LGBTQ+ youth. “The Trevor Project is the world’s largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning (LGBTQ) young people.” It offers a wealth of resources for young people and those who know, love and support them. It’s definitely worth a visit.
Johns Hopkins has created a Center for Transgender Health. Their website has compiled a thoughtful list of gender fluid and transgender books for young children through adults. So if you are a reader or would like to explore some useful books on this topic for yourself or a loved one, this may be a place to start!