Mental health is something that most people struggle with at some point in their lives. Young people need to take care of their mental state because it can have a lasting impact on who they are and how they see the world long into adulthood.
For LGBTQ+ youth, this can be even more challenging due to the stressors that come with being part of that community. There are so many different factors that play into how we see ourselves and others, but having a positive mental state can go a long way toward helping you navigate them all. Keeping your mental health in check isn’t always easy, but there are things you can do as an individual or as a family to make it easier and more accessible when you need to support the most.
Support Your Kid Where They’re at, Even if It Changes
There is no one way to be LGBTQ+, and there are many identities within this umbrella term. For example, someone who identifies as LGBTQ+ might be pansexual, polysexual, androgynous, and so many more things. To help your child, you need to first understand what they’re going through. You can do this by learning about the unique challenges that each identity faces, as well as how to be an ally in the community.
As your child grows, they will likely change their identity or come out in a new way. This is normal and a sign that they’re exploring their identity and how it fits into their life. Even if your kid transitions from one identity to another, or if they suddenly come out with a new one, it’s important to support them in the way that they need now. This can help them feel more connected to their family and loved ones, which can go a long way in mental health.
Talk About It
For much LGBTQ+ youth, coming out can be extremely stressful. This can cause added anxiety and stress, which can get in the way of taking care of your mental health. If your child is feeling pressured to come out, or if they’re feeling isolated because they’re unsure if they’re part of the LGBTQ+ community, they might be dealing with these issues.
If your kid is having trouble talking to you about their identity, or if they seem anxious about coming out, try talking about it with them. Let your child know that you’re there to help them talk through this and that you’re open to any questions or concerns they have. This can help ease the stress and anxiety your kid might be feeling and make it easier for them to take care of their mental health.
Kids who identify as LGBTQ+ often feel disconnected from their families. This can cause them to feel alone and like there’s no one in their corner when they need it most. Kids may feel disconnected for several reasons, including lack of knowledge about the LGBTQ+ community and harmful stereotypes.
These can cause families to unintentionally push their kids away without realizing it. There are ways to stay connected and help your child feel more connected to the family. You can do this by:
- Understanding the challenges your child’s faces and talking about how you can address them.
- Modeling positive behavior by being open to your child and their friends, and encouraging others to do the same.
- Following LGBTQ+-friendly media, such as outlets that discuss issues important to the community and share stories from LGBTQ+ people.
- Use inclusive languages around your child, like the pronouns they prefer and their name.
Listen to Your Child With Empathy
Many parents want to know what to say when their child comes out. While there are no hard and fast rules, it’s most important to listen to your child with empathy.
- Let your child know that you care about them and want to support them in any way that you can.
- Try not to express any strong feelings until you’re sure your child is done sharing.
- Ask your child if there’s anything you can do to help them feel supported, like following up with a call or inviting them over for dinner.
- Use this opportunity to ask your child questions about the LGBTQ+ community, their identity, and anything else you’re curious about.
Ask Your Kid What They Need
Kids who identify as LGBTQ+ may struggle with self-esteem and a feeling of self-worth. This can make it difficult to feel like they’re capable of taking care of themselves, especially when it comes to their mental health. Parents can help their child boost their self-esteem by asking them what they need. You can start by asking your child what they wish you did more of, and what you can do less of. You can also ask your child how you can help them navigate specific challenges, like going to a new school or dealing with teasing from other kids.
Develop a Ritual for Self-Care
Something that all people can benefit from is self-care. This can be something as simple as taking 10 minutes out of your day to meditate, or as involved as going on a hike once a week. Some ideas for self-care rituals that can help LGBTQ+ youth include:
- Be mindful when you’re interacting with others, including family members and peers.
- Practicing gratitude and being thankful for the things you have.
- Setting aside time just for you each week so that you can recharge your batteries.
- Doing something creative, like writing or painting.
- Take part in an activity that is important to you, like volunteering or attending your favorite sports team’s games.
Pay Attention to the Language You Use When Talking About LGBTQ+ Communities
There are many myths and stereotypes about what it means to be LGBTQ+. Before you talk with your child about their identity, make sure to do your research and look at the facts. Be careful with how you use pronouns when talking to your child and others about their identity.
Avoid using words like “homosexual”, which have been proven to be harmful. Make sure to avoid generalizations like, “all gay people love Broadway”, or “all lesbians have short hair”. These types of inaccurate generalizations can cause harm to LGBTQ+ youth, and make it more difficult for them to take care of their mental health.
Help Your Child Find Professional Help
If you notice that your child is struggling with their mental health and you aren’t sure what to do, it’s important to reach out for help. You can do this by connecting your kid with a therapist, or finding a support group for LGBTQ+ youth in your area. There are many benefits to getting therapy, including being able to talk through challenges and get help with managing stress.
Therapy can be a great way to help your kid find their mental health footing again by teaching them how to cope with stress and how to manage emotions like anxiety and depression. Therapy can also be a great way for your child to meet other LGBTQ+ youth and find like-minded peers who are going through similar things.
This can help make your kid feel more connected, and make it easier to take care of their mental health. Talking with a therapist is a great way to get connected to resources that can help your child, like information on how to deal with bullying, finding positive support in your community, and connecting with other LGBTQ+ youth who are going through similar things.
Parents can make a huge difference in the lives of their LGBTQ+ kids. This can be challenging, especially if you aren’t sure where to start. The most important thing you can do is to listen to your child, and then find support for them.