Every mom or dad knows that parenting is no easy task. From the moment a child is born, many parents are confronted with constant fear and anxiety that they will not parent the right way. However, there really is no such thing as a “right way” to parent. Every family is confronted with different challenges, and finding the best way to support your child may not always be simple.
Recently parents have begun to ask a new challenging question about the proper way to raise kids: How do I raise my child who is transgender? Experts estimate that 0.7 percent of children ages 13–17 identify as transgender or gender non-binary. To better understand how to raise a transgender child, let’s look at a recent article released by Jor-El Carballo, which provides insight and tips on how to raise a transgender child. Carballo is a New York licensed therapist (LMHC), co-founder of Viva Wellness, and a Talkspace therapist. He first gained experienced working with the LGBTQ community while working with LGBTQ young adults at the True Colors Residence of West End Residences, HDFC.
Understanding What Transgender Means
The first step to parenting a transgender child is to come to an understanding of what it means to be transgender. Although we are only in the beginning stages of research on the subject, it is best to consult the individuals themselves to properly understand what it means to be transgender.
To be transgender is to feel as though you are in the body of the wrong person. It does not necessarily refer to “boy” vs. “girl,” but rather the feeling that you are not connected with the body that you are in. Even worse, you wake up every day disgusted by your own body. According to Caraballo, these are common feelings for a transgender individual. They simply do not identify with the gender assigned to them at birth.
Challenges for the Family
Talkspace suggests that adopting and accepting this lifestyle for both you and your child is extremely important for a healthy future. Both parties may be experiencing an array of mixed emotions, which is normal and should not be ignored. Many common challenges experienced by children coming out as transgender include: judgement, rejection, isolation, and even hate crimes. Parents often face internal conflict including fear and confusion.
Tips from Caraballo
Providing support for your child is crucial for all parents. It is essential not only for the child’s development but also to ensure an ongoing healthy relationship between parent and child. Therefore, following the tips of professionals can provide insight on how to grow this relationship. Here are a few from Caraballo:
- “Refrain from proclaiming that you will love your child ‘no matter what.’ While well-intentioned, this often communicates the message that you love them in spite of their identity.”
- Do not refer to your child as “a transgender” or “transgendered.”
- “Avoid calling your child confused [or] demonic or [scolding] them for being ‘trendy.’”
- “Avoid using therapy as a punishment or reparative tool.”
Raising a transgender child can be a challenge for both the child and the parent. They are both confronted with individual struggles, and both can greatly benefit from working with a therapist.
For the Child
As Caraballo stated, sending a child to therapy because they are transgender is not healthy. However, providing your child the opportunity to go to therapy to explore their emotions and gain better insight on who they are can be advantageous. In retrospect, these actions are valuable for any individual because they allow someone the opportunity to grow and develop.
For the Parent
Learning how to navigate and support your child through this experience can bring up emotions such as anger, guilt, fear, and worry. Working with a therapist and having a space to explore your feelings can not only help you grow individually but also provide you with the chance to fully support your child.
Another option that may be beneficial to both the parent and child is family therapy. Your child is just in the beginning of their development, and coming out as transgender is not always easy in today’s society. But as a parent, if you can continue to show support by obtaining appropriate help, you will be helping set your child up for a life of success.
There are multiple avenues that a family can take when finding the right counselor or group. First, there are a variety of support groups in most neighborhoods that can provide a place for you and your child to share with others about the changes you are experiencing.
In addition, therapy, as mentioned, can be incredibly useful. There are two forms of therapy that are commonly used: in-person therapy and online therapy. Both have their pros and cons. Review the list and identify which option is best suited for you and your family’s well-being, and get started immediately.