Your teen just informed you that they don't believe they are the gender you assumed they were. Your teen is transgender. Or gender fluid. Or something else completely. Your child was born looking one way. Male or female. It seemed pretty apparent to you, so you picked a name for them that fit the gender you saw. You clothed them in cute, frilly dresses or handsome sweaters and bowties. You dubbed her your princess or marked him a prince. Now the child you adore tells you that you were wrong all along?
Parents often contact us shortly after their child comes out. Occasionally the child or teen is unsure what their gender identity will be. Other youths have researched independently before coming out. Or maybe your child confidently declared that they are transgender, gender fluid, or one of many other non-binary gender identities.
Parents frequently feel confused, overwhelmed, and uncertain but want to help their child or teen. If you're going to support your child and help them sustain optimal mental health, our family and marriage therapist in Winter Park has some tips.
Support and convey love but don't force the trans child to pick names for themselves or begin buying new clothes or anything along these lines. Instead, support their needs and pace. Even if you are entirely in support of your child's transition, there are a lot of bullies in this world your child needs to work their courage up to face before getting thrown into situations they cannot safely maintain in.
Do this continually. Children who come out as a gender other than what they were assigned at birth might have difficulty valuing themselves, and their most significant fear might be that they are unlovable. Even if you don't understand what they are telling you, be explicit that you love them no matter what. Communicate that there are no conditions for your love.
This means finding a counselor to help them work through a very confusing time. Strong research shows that conversion therapy or treatment to fix a child's gender identity is counterproductive and harmful to their mental health. On the other hand, a validating mental health professional can help you and your child steer this new journey.
You have feelings involved in this as well. Please recognize how complex your feelings may be. Are you scared, overwhelmed, concerned about your child's future, disconnected, dissatisfied, guilty, or angry? It's ok to admit that this is part of your experience. Maybe you feel sad when you learn that you'll not be helping your daughter pick a prom dress. This doesn't mean you are a terrible parent or are unsupportive. It's a fleeting human emotion. Maybe you feel guilty thinking that it's somehow your fault that your child feels unsure about who they are.
No matter what you and your child are going through, we are here to help. Contact us today to see an individual, family, or marriage therapist in Winter Park. We want to help you and your child live your very best life.
Heather Oller is a licensed Orlando therapist at Orlando Thrive Therapy, Coaching & Counseling who specializes in counseling Orlando couples, individuals, and families who are seeking changes in their lives. She has been a mental health professional for over 17 years and is a practicing Orlando counselor that specializes in conflict resolution for couples. You can contact her for an appointment or call 407-592-8997 for more information.