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How to Support our LGBTQIA+ Youth in Today’s Challenging World

Stop any parent on the street and ask them what their number one goal is as a parent and I’ll betcha the answer is more or less the same regardless of how old their kids are or where they are on their parenting journey. At our core, most of us just want our kids to grow up to be happy, thriving humans with open hearts, healthy minds, and full souls. We just want the world to be kind to them without any strings attached.

That last part, though, can be a little tricky in today’s world where kids are questioning themselves and their identities like never before, and the world around them isn’t always as kind or inclusive as it should be. And that can be daunting, complicated, and nerve-wracking for us because even though we want to have all the answers to guide them, sometimes we just don’t. But that’s actually okay.

Truth is, it’s hard to sit in the role of a parent knowing that we’re looked at as the ones who are supposed to have all the answers to all the burning questions even before those questions are asked. It’s intimidating and scary, and I don’t know about you, but it definitely makes all of my mom insecurities rise to the surface like cream on a fresh latte. Only not in a delicious way.

Love Them

Here’s the thing, though, through my own experience as the mom of two now-grown daughters, one of whom came out as bisexual in her junior year of college, I’ve come to realize that the best thing we can do for our kids—especially for those who are either secretly or openly part of the LGBTQIA+ community—is just love them. Just. Love. Them. Because somehow, with love as our foundation, the rest just kinda falls into place. And while I know that seems almost too easy, reminding our kids that we love and accept them unconditionally is one of the most powerful gifts we can give them as their parents.

See, when we love our kids without conditions or expectations, then we’re free to meet them exactly where they are. And that right there allows them to be exactly who they need to be. Then they can share what they want, and we can openly receive whatever we’re lucky enough to get. Because when we do that, we’re trading our expectations for an open dialogue with our kids that gives them the freedom to tell us what’s really on their mind, along with what they really need. And there’s no kind of support that looks and feels better to a child than having their parents hand over the mic and let them do the talking.

Let Them Share Their Truest Self

As my friend (she’s not really my friend yet, but I have high hopes) Glennon Doyle says in her latest book Untamed, “What if parenting became less about telling our children who they should be and more about asking them again and again forever who they already are? Then, when they tell us, we would celebrate instead of concede.” Because what greater gift is there from child to parent than showing us their truest self?

The reality is, we’re not always going to be there to run interference and soften all the blows when the haters gonna hate in our kids’ lives. That means we need to empower them with the beliefs and the skills to navigate the often judgy world around them. We need to be their ally for sure, but even more than that, we need to listen. Just listen. And right alongside the listening we need to do, we also need to acknowledge that we’re also doing some big league learning too. Because the learning curve of life doesn’t just extend to our kids. We’re figuring out how to be parents at the same time our kids are figuring out how to be good, authentic humans.

Hold Space

So, if you’re unsure of how to show up for your kids who are questioning or asserting who they are or who are struggling with their mental or emotional health, one of the best places any of us can start is just by holding space for them and reminding them that they’re unconditionally loved. Because, according to The Trevor Project, the world’s largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention lifeline for at-risk LGBTQ youth, having at least one accepting adult in their life can reduce the risk of a suicide attempt among young LGBTQ people by 40 percent. And in the life of a young person who may be wrestling with mental health issues or their identity or sexuality, that supportive adult figure can make all the difference in the world.

And once your kids know you represent a safe, non-judgmental place for them, reassure them that the lines of communication are wide open whenever they need to unload what’s on their mind. Then, make the time to educate yourself on the fundamentals of the LGBTQIA+ movement by doing your homework. Ask questions. Read. Be curious. Ask your child how you can show up as an ally of the LGBTQIA+ community. Listen. Speak up. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes.

Empower Them

And once you’ve done all that, just start the conversation by letting your kids know it’s safe to share whatever they’re ready to share. Then just receive it with an open heart and remember to say “thank you,” because whatever you’re lucky enough to learn is a gift. The moral here is simple . . . if you want to support your LGBTQIA+ child, talk less, listen more, be proactive, and let them know you’re there for them for the long haul. Because there’s nothing that’ll make your child feel more empowered to take on the world as their true self than knowing they’re loved and they have you in their corner.

Lisa Sugarman lives just north of Boston, Massachusetts. She writes the nationally syndicated opinion column “It Is What It Is” and is the author of How to Raise Perfectly Imperfect Kids And Be Ok With It, Untying Parent Anxiety, and LIFE: It Is What It Is, available on Amazon, at Barnes & Noble, and everywhere books are sold. Sugarman is also the co-host of the LIFE Unfiltered podcast on iTunes and iHeartRadio; a parenting expert at SocialMama, the networking app for moms; and a contributor on GrownAndFlown, Healthline Parenthood, Thrive Global, Care(dot)com, LittleThings, More Content Now, and Today.com. Lisa is also a proud ally and member of the LGBTQIA+ community. Visit her at lisasugarman.com.

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