To Parents of a Child with Gender Identitiy Issues

The common feelings and reactions of parents whose child expressed gender identity issues

The parents of a child with gender identity issues often have very strong feelings when their child expresses his/her/their gender identity issues. The common feelings these parents may experience are devastation, shock, disbelief and confusion. It is typical for those parents to cry and say, “it feels like my son/daughter died.”  You might feel as if your child has died and that this revelation will be the beginning of endless worry about his/her/their safety. You may also think about the scary statistics; the high suicide attempt rates of transgender people or the all too common occurrence of  hate crimes towards the population. Your child might say something like his/her/their previous life was horrible and want to erase it. As a parent who has spent a lot of time, energy and effort, it is hurtful to hear such statements. It is normal for you to feel extremely upset. There are no wrong feelings in this world, and of course, all of your feelings are valid. Here are the common feelings of the parents.    

- Shock

- Disbelief

- Feeling of sadness

- Despair

-Feeling of loss (you feel like you lost your child.)

- Crying spells

- Hurt

- Anger

- Self blame (you might wonder if your parenting caused their gender confusion.)

- Blaming on the media that shows LGBTQIA+ people Etc...

What you should do to help your child as a parent.

We often hear many negative stories about Transgender people, but the good news is that the statistics of suicide rates and mental health problems significantly change when a child has supportive parent(s). That means that you play a key role for your child’s emotional health. To do so, you need to educate yourself about the topic so that you can provide the best care for your child.

It is highly recommended that your child be assessed by an appropriate health care professional. Gender identity issues are very complex, and families need clear guidance and support. It is not emotionally healthy deal with these issues alone, and your child might suffer from mental health problems if you don’t seek help soon. Unfortunately, we hear families tell us horror stories about their experience with health professionals who don’t understand gender identity issues. Our knowledge and understanding of appropriate care for gender expansive people are still evolving, and a negative encounter with a professional can be emotionally traumatic for your child and family. I highly recommend that you do your research before you meet with a health care professional. It is also very important for you to have good support from understanding family members and friends. There are good support groups for Transgender and non-binary youth and families. I strongly encourage parents also connect with a support group.

What to expect for your emotional response as a parent.

It is a loss of your son/daughter and a rebirth of your child with a different gender identity (male/ female transgender or non binary, etc). You might feel sadness for the loss for a long time — some people experience this sadness for years. It is extremely difficult for parents to go through a child’s gender identity issues, but if you can support your child, he/she/they will get better and happier again.

It is important for you to know that your child will be much happier once he/she/ they are accepted as his/her/their authentic self by their preferred name and pronoun. It takes time for parents to accept their child’s new name and pronoun. It might take months for you to feel OK to use that pronoun for your child. If the communication between a child and parents becomes difficult concerning gender identity issues, you should consult with a gender affirming counselor/psychotherapist to get help. The topic might evoke strong emotions in the family. The good news is that many parents report it gets better after they learn what is the best for their child and get support from professionals and other parents. Please note that you are not alone in this journey.