Tips for Parents (by MICHELE ANGELLO, Ph.D)
1. Tell your child that you love them (repeatedly) as well as how proud you are of them for sharing this with you. Even if you’re still struggling to understand, this step is imperative. Most kids tell me that even though they know that their parents love them, they suspect they will become “less lovable” after coming out. Your child just shared their biggest, scariest secret with you, and whether or not it’s obvious, they need to hear that they are loved.
2. Find other parents of transgender or gender-nonconforming kids. For some folks, it can be challenging to find these people to meet face-to-face with, but there are also opportunities for virtual support. The conference is a fantastic way to meet others and stay connected via email or phone. Some families get so connected that they end up vacationing together or at least staying in contact with their newfound friends in between the annual conferences.
3. Celebrate your child’s “day of authenticity.” This can take the form of an annual “birthday-like” celebration,or something simpler like an announcement to the extended family/community. It emotionally solidifies to your child and the community that supports them that this day is important!
4. Affirm them at every opportunity. It may feel contrived at first (because it is!), but go out of your way to use your child’s chosen name and pronoun as often as possible. Hearing this can mean the world to a child who recently came out. I’ve had kids tear up in my office when I repeatedly use their new name.
5. Give gifts that affirm their gender identity. If your child has received the more stereo-typically masculine gifts throughout her life and now identifies as female, make the shift. This doesn’t mean that you need to perpetuate “female” and “male” gift-giving, but if there is something she’s interested in that she doesn’t have (hair bands, lip gloss, a necklace) consider putting it on the gift list. Trans boys often tell me how thrilled they were when their parents took them to buy boxer shorts. This act doesn’t have to be expensive — it really is the thought that counts!