Gender identity is all over the mainstream media these days. Society seems to have a very black or white viewpoint on it. You stand on one side or the other. However, what happens when your child questions their identity? And what happens if you stand on the side against the transgender lifestyle?
Finding a gray area might be difficult. You may be feeling very confused and worried, and you might even question yourself. Take a deep breath; below, you will find a guide to help you in offering a judgment-free zone for your child to express themselves while feeling supported and loved.
Listening To Your Child When They Are Questioning Their Identity
Parents like to fix things for their children; it is a built-in instinct. Always having an answer or being willing to find an answer for their children is a parental instinct. However, when it comes to questioning their identity, children need parents to take a seat, stop thinking about their own viewpoints, and listen.
Psychotherapist Kristie Overstreet says, "I think for parents, a lot of times they feel like they've got to have the answer. I want parents to know you don't have to figure it out. You just got to listen and see what they need. And if they say they don't know what they need, then you can say, 'All right, let's talk about it more. What's coming up for you? What does it mean to you?'"
Don't Assume You Know What Your Child Is Feeling About Their Identity
Parents may have their own thoughts on what it means to question your identity, but it is important they don't impose those thoughts on their children. Being open and accepting helps children to begin to share their thoughts. Children questioning their identity may be thinking about various things.
- Gender dysphoria: the feeling of discomfort or distress that might occur in people whose gender identity differs from their sex assigned at birth or sex-related physical characteristics.
- Gender identity: is each person's internal and individual experience of gender.
- Gender expression: how a person publicly expresses or presents their gender. Behaviors and outward appearances such as dress, hair, make-up, body language, and voice.
This means that just because a child is questioning their identity does not mean they are transgender or non-binary. They are simply trying to figure things out in accordance with how it relates to their feelings about their gender. It's possible they want guidance from their parents or need help with finding a therapist to give them guidance.
Being Supportive Of Your Child Who Is Questioning Their Identity
Psychotherapist Veronica Chin Hing says, "We trust a child when they say what foods they like or don't like, and we trust them when they say they're attracted to a person in their kindergarten class or wherever. Parents employ a lot of trusts, and it falls short when it comes to gender variance and sexuality and sex, but this shouldn't be the case."
Parents can best show support by speaking honestly and straightforwardly with their children. Avoiding using humor and/or derogatory terms and tone will also help your child feel reinforced about opening up. It is important that children are given the right to express themselves.
The National Library of Medicine suggests that children who grew up with parents who yelled, shouted, or verbally humiliated them may have a greater likelihood of experiencing challenges into adulthood, including:
- Anger management
- Physical aggression
- Trouble maintaining relationships
Do Your Own Research On Gender Identity
To best support a child questioning their identity, it is important that parents do their own research. Becoming a team with their child versus their child guiding them through the process. Parents can look into support groups and talk with other parents who have experienced what they may be going through with their child. PFLAG and Facebook are two places to look for parent support.
Finding a therapist who deals with transgenders or gender identity can also be useful for parents. They can air out their own thoughts and biases on the subject and get useful, knowledgeable advice in return. It is best for parents to try not to put all of that on their children.
Remember While You Are Supporting Your Child, You Are Still The Parent
No matter what a child is facing when questioning their own identity, knowledge is power. The child may be in a big rush to change things all at once, and it is up to the parent to slow that down and make sure everything has been discussed; not only together, but with doctors and therapists too.