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PRIDE and Family Law

Part 8: Supporting your LGBTQIA+ Child When Others Won’t

As a good parent, you love your child no matter what, regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation. Watching your child face discrimination and rejection is heartbreaking, and of course you want to protect them from that pain as much as you can. But what happens if that rejection is coming from your child’s other parent? How can you protect your child when the threat is so close to home? If getting full custody of your child, discussed in Parts 6 and 7 , isn’t an option, there are still steps you can take to minimize the damage of their other parent’s rejection.

Your support and acceptance are the most important things you can provide for your LGBTQIA+ child. LGBTQIA+ teens who have been rejected by their families are many times more likely to attempt suicide than other teenagers. Knowing that you are there for them helps insulate your child from the long-term mental health damage that family rejection can cause, and it just might save their life. Be sure that you are regularly reassuring your child of your love and support and of the validity of their identity and emotions. An LGBTQIA+ child facing difficulties with one parent needs even more reassurance than other kids their age. You can never say “I love you and I’m here for you” too often.

Reassurance is not enough by itself, though – you also need to back that up with actions. Show your child that you are willing to fight for them. Stand up and say something when someone uses a slur or says something homophobic, even if speaking up upsets people. Don’t badmouth the other parent, but don’t be afraid to stand up for your child when dealing with them. Show that speaking derogatorily about your child or treating them poorly is not acceptable to you. And it is important that your child, their other parent, and anyone else in your child’s life knows that.

The other parent or people such as teachers and coaches might keep their discrimination behind closed doors, so it is also important to listen to your child and follow up on any concerns that they may express about how they are being treated. Don’t dismiss their concerns just because you haven’t seen the behavior. As in abuse situations, bigots are often good at hiding their bad behavior from everyone but their target.

If you have other children, be sure you are speaking openly and often with them about acceptance, providing information and education that include LGBTQIA+ individuals, and encouraging them to be supportive of their sibling. They are probably hearing negative things about their sibling and the LGBTQIA+ community from their other parent, and you have to counter that to keep them from potentially turning on or excluding your LGBTQIA+ child.

Lastly, be sure to help surround your child with supportive adults and LGBTQIA+ adults who can serve as positive role models, mentors, and support networks. Including supportive family members from both sides of the child’s family can also help soothe the sting of not having the support of one parent by maintaining strong alternative family relationships.

Being rejected by a parent is incredibly hurtful to a child, especially when the reason is part of their basic identity. You child needs your support and protection to get through that hurt with as little psychological damage as possible. Your love and acceptance will form a foundation for your LGBTQIA+ child to build a happy, healthy, fulfilling life as their most authentic self.