According to recent studies, 40% of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ+. This alarming statistic underscores the importance of creating a safe and affirming environment for LGBTQ+ children. As a parent, caregiver, or mentor, it is important to be proactive in providing support and resources to ensure these young individuals feel seen, heard, and valued. In this blog post, we will discuss four ways to help LGBTQ+ children feel safe and supported, including creating an affirming environment, educating oneself about what you do not understand, having them help you understand, and embracing the journey as they continue to figure it out.
Creating an Affirming Environment: It is essential to create a safe and affirming space for LGBTQ+ children to feel comfortable expressing themselves, sharing their experiences, and asking questions. Some ways to do this include starting open dialogues about LGBTQ+ experiences, using gender-neutral language, and celebrating LGBTQ+ identities and milestones. Additionally, it is essential to establish ground rules regarding hate speech, bullying, and discrimination, and ensure that they are being upheld.
Educating Oneself About What You Do Not Understand: It is not uncommon to feel uncertain about how to approach a child's journey to self-discovery. However, by taking the time to educate oneself about LGBTQ+ identities, experiences, and terminology, caregivers can better support LGBTQ+ children. Resources that one can utilize include local LGBTQ+ organizations, online articles, books, and documentaries. Make sure to engage with these resources with an open heart and an open mind to become a better ally to LGBTQ+ children in your life.
Having Them Help You Understand: It is important to emphasize that it is not the LGBTQ+ child's responsibility to educate their caregivers about their identity; However, it can be empowering for young individuals to share their journey with supportive adults. Encourage them to communicate what support they need, what challenges they are facing, and to ask supportive adults questions. This can create a strong bond of trust and safety between the LGBTQ+ child and the supportive adult, encouraging open communication and validating their experiences.
Embracing the Journey as They Continue to Figure It Out: It is important to remember that gender identity and sexual orientation are not always fixed and that young individuals may identify differently at different stages of their lives. It is important to support them on their journey and allow them to express what feels true to them without judgment. Make sure to provide emotional support through these changes and show them that they are loved and valued no matter what.
Caregiving LGBTQ+ children requires effort and intentionality in creating a supportive and safe environment. By creating an affirming space, educating oneself including through support groups and parenting workshops, having open dialogues, and supporting the child's journey, we can help LGBTQ+ children thrive. It is essential to celebrate their LGBTQ+ identities and encourage positive support from friends, family, and communities. It is our responsibility as caring adults to support and affirm LGBTQ+ children as they discover their true selves.