Supporting the mental health of LGBTQIA+ children and young people

At Australian Childhood Foundation, we know how crucial it is to proactively support the mental health and wellbeing of children and young people who identify as LGBTQIA+. Social factors such as rejection, bullying, discrimination, and lack of support can severely impact their wellbeing, leading to issues like anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem. So, what can parents and carers do to safeguard LGBTQIA+ children and young people?

Create a safe, supportive, and strong family environment

Your support plays a crucial role in protecting and enhancing LGBTQIA+ children and young people’s wellbeing. Create a home environment where your child feels safe to be themselves, free from judgment or rejection. When your child shares their sexuality or gender identity with you, focus on listening to their experiences and needs without making the conversation about your feelings or imposing assumptions – avoid trivialising their experience with comments like “I knew it!” or suggesting they’re ‘going through a phase’.

Ask them how you can support them, listen to their needs, and respond to their disclosures with unconditional love and gratitude. Be patient and give them space to express their emotions and explore their identity. Your acceptance can make a significant difference to their ongoing emotional health and wellbeing, so ensure that you show you are a trusted adult they can share things with through simple affirmations like, “thank you for trusting me with this,” or “I love and support you no matter what.”

Encourage them to express their identity

Empowering LGBTQAI+ children and young people to be their authentic selves by embracing chosen names, pronouns, and clothing helps them feel a sense of belonging and acceptance, and serves as an important protector against the societal stigmas and responses they may face away from home. By affirming their identities, we create environments where they feel seen, respected, and valued. This recognition and support can be crucial in alleviating feelings of shame, confusion, and distress.

Connect them with positive role models

Being around trusted LGBTQIA+ adults can help children and young people envision a safe and happy future for themselves – even one supportive LGBTQIA+ role model in their lives can make a significant difference. Exposure to diverse and inclusive media can also provide LGBTQIA+ children and young people with role models and narratives that reflect their experiences and identities. This encourages a sense of belonging and validation, showing them that their identity is normal and valued. Discussing these representations together can also open up meaningful conversations and provide opportunities to support and affirm their experiences.

Ensure they have access to the right professional support

Advocate for your child’s healthcare needs, including mental health services that affirm their identity. Ensure access to supportive and knowledgeable counsellors and therapists who understand their specific challenges and check in with them, to ensure they feel safe and encouraged when talking through the struggles, joys and exploration of self and identity that they may be experiencing – professional support for your child can also include you as a parent.

Be aware some children and young people might feel hesitant to confide in their parents and may instead seek support from peers and others outside the home. It’s important to respect their need for privacy while fostering a safe base in your relationship with them that allows them to return to you at any time for support.

Stay educated and connected

Staying educated on current and emerging LGBTQIA+ issues, as well as mental health warning signs in children and young people, is essential. Knowledge about LGBTQIA+ topics and communities can help us create safe and supportive environments, and learning about diverse experiences and perspectives fosters personal growth, empathy, and understanding, enriching our relationships with our children.

Helpful resources

Local resources and online communities, like those shared below, can offer support for both you and your LGBTQIA+ child. Connecting with these resources can provide guidance in creating a nurturing environment for your child.

Being the parent or carer of an LGBTQIA+ child may come with individual challenges, but your support could be life-saving. By creating a loving and accepting environment, advocating for your child’s needs, and continuously educating yourself, you can help your LBTQIA+ child navigate their journey with confidence, support and unconditional love.

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