Supporting Your Child Who is Trans

supporting transgender child

Isolated house with a transgender pride flag

Parenting a transgender child can be a challenging and sometimes overwhelming experience, but it also has the potential to be tremendously rewarding.  Parents have to adjust their visions for their child’s future.  That can be difficult and important for their own wellbeing as well as their child’s wellbeing and mental health.  

Trans youth are a vulnerable population that faces a range of risk factors. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, these risk factors can include discrimination, bullying, and lack of access to healthcare (AAP, 2018). Discrimination can take many forms, such as exclusion from social groups or mistreatment by authority figures. Bullying is a major concern for trans youth, as they are more likely to experience harassment and violence in school (Kosciw et al., 2020). Additionally, trans youth may face challenges accessing healthcare, which can lead to delayed or inadequate medical treatment.

Acceptance and affirmation are crucial for the mental health and well-being of trans youth. According to a study by Russell and Toomey (2020), family acceptance and support can protect against negative mental health outcomes, such as depression and suicidal ideation. On the other hand, rejection and lack of support can increase the risk of mental health problems. Additionally, research has shown that gender-affirming medical care, such as hormone therapy, can lead to improved mental health outcomes for trans youth (Katz-Wise et al., 2021).

Social Support

Parents of all LGBT children, especially trans and gender non-conforming children, should support their child psychologically, socially, and medically.

By providing social support for your child who is trans, you can help them to feel accepted and valued for who they are. This can have a profound impact on their self-esteem, mental health, and overall well-being. It can also help them to develop a positive gender identity and to thrive in their social environment. There are several ways that parents can do this, including:

Using the child’s chosen name and pronouns consistently, and educating others about why this is important.

Advocating for the child’s rights in school and in other social settings, such as by working with school staff to ensure that the child is treated with respect and dignity.

Supporting the child’s participation in extracurricular activities, such as sports teams or clubs, that align with their gender identity.
Connecting the child with other transgender youth or supportive adults who can serve as positive role models and provide additional support.
Educating yourself and others about transgender issues, and challenging transphobia and discrimination when you see it.

Psychological Support

In addition to providing social support, it is also important for parents to provide psychological support for their trans or non-binary child. There are several ways that parents can do this, including:

  1. Validating the child’s gender identity and expressing love and support for them, no matter what.
  2. Listening to the child’s concerns and worries, and providing emotional support and reassurance.
  3. Helping the child to cope with any negative reactions or discrimination they may face.
  4. Seeking out an LGBT affirming therapist is often important. An LGBT-affirming therapist can provide crucial support as they navigate their gender journey. This might include help with self-esteem and confidence, as well as support with any social or emotional challenges they may be facing. An LGBT-affirming therapist can also help the child to understand and express their gender identity in a healthy and positive way.
  5. Providing opportunities for the child to express their gender identity in ways that are comfortable and affirming for them.

Providing psychological support for your trans child can help them to feel understood and accepted, and can promote their emotional well-being. It can also help them to develop a healthy and positive gender identity, and to navigate the challenges and barriers they may face. By providing this support, parents can play a crucial role in their child’s psychological development and overall well-being.

Medical Support

In addition to providing social and psychological support, it is also important for parents to support their child’s medical needs. There are many ways that parents can do this, including:

  1. Seeking out medical providers who are experienced in treating transgender individuals and who provide affirming care. For parents in Chicago, a valuable resource is the Gender Development program at Lurie Children’s Hospital. This program offers a range of services for transgender and gender non-conforming youth, including medical care, mental health support, and social support. The team at Lurie Children’s Hospital is dedicated to providing affirming and compassionate care for transgender children and their families. They also offer educational resources and support for parents to help them navigate their child’s gender journey. If you are a parent in Chicago with a transgender child, consider reaching out to Lurie Children’s Hospital’s Gender Development program for support and guidance.
  2. Ensuring that the child’s medical records reflect their chosen name and pronouns.
  3. Providing support and assistance with hormone therapy or other medical treatments that the child may be undergoing.
  4. Advocating for the child’s medical needs and ensuring that they receive appropriate care.
  5. Educating yourself about the medical aspects of gender transition, and staying informed about developments in this field.

Supporting a transgender child’s medical needs is crucial for their physical and emotional well-being. By providing this support, parents can help their child to access the care they need and to transition in a safe and healthy way. It is also important for parents to stay informed and involved in their child’s medical care, to ensure that they receive the best possible care.

Supporting Yourself

It is important to note that acceptance and affirmation are not only beneficial for the trans child, but also for the entire family. According to a study by Travers et al. (2020), family acceptance can improve family functioning and reduce parental distress.

As such, it is crucial for parents to seek support for themselves. Parenting a child who is trans can be emotionally and mentally taxing, and it is important for parents to take care of themselves in order to be able to best support their child. It is important for parents to remember that it is normal to struggle with understanding and accepting your child’s gender identity. It may be difficult to let go of the expectations you had for your child’s gender expression, and you may find yourself struggling to understand and accept your child’s new identity. It is important to remember that this is a process and that it is okay to not have all the answers right away.

You are not alone and that there are resources and support available to help you navigate this new journey.

Finding an LGBT-affirming therapist [LINK-LGBT page on Tandem] to support you, especially if you are not LGBT. An LGBT-affirming therapist is a mental health professional who is trained to provide support and guidance to LGBT individuals and their families. They can provide a safe and accepting space for parents to express their concerns and fears, and can help parents to understand and accept their child’s gender identity.

Another valuable resource for parents of transgender children in Chicago is PFLAG, a national organization that provides support, education, and advocacy for queer and LGBTQ+ individuals and their families. PFLAG has a chapter in Chicago that offers a range of services, including support groups, educational resources, and advocacy support.

Attending a PFLAG support group can be incredibly beneficial for parents of transgender children. These groups provide a safe and accepting space for parents to connect with others who are also navigating the journey of parenting a transgender child. In these groups, parents can share their experiences, offer support to one another, and learn from one another’s challenges and triumphs.

In addition to support groups, PFLAG Chicago also offers educational resources and workshops on topics relevant to parenting a trans or non-binary child. These resources can help parents to better understand their child’s gender identity and to learn about the challenges and barriers that trans and non-binary individuals face.

Finally, GLSEN, which is dedicated to creating safe and inclusive schools for LGBT students, offers a wealth of information and resources for parents of transgender children. Some of their resources include on how to support your child as well as advice on how to advocate for their rights in school. Similarly, the Human Rights Campaign Foundation provides resources for parents of trans children, such as guides on supporting their child’s gender identity and navigating healthcare.

Parenting a child who is trans or non-binary can be a challenging but rewarding experience. It is important for parents to seek support for themselves and their child, and to create a safe and accepting environment for their child to thrive. By doing so, parents can help their child to grow into confident and proud individuals.

We’d be honored to join your parenting journey. Our LGBT therapists have available to support you in-person at our Lakeview location as well as via telehealth throughout Chicago and the state of Illinois. Schedule an appointment today!

This blog is made for informational and educational purposes only. It is not medical advice.
The information in this blog is not intended to (1) replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified licensed health care provider, (2) create or establish a provider-patient relationship, or (3) create a duty for us to follow up with you.


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