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Here’s how to support your child or teen's authentic identity






May 20, 2024

Evolving physically, mentally, and emotionally are normal parts of growing up, but it can be a lot of pressure to feel like you need to have it ALL figured out. That’s why helping kids, teens, and young adults to simply be their authentic selves is one of the best ways to support their mental health.

When a child is exploring their identity - whether that be gender, sexuality, or the clothes that they wear - the most important thing for them to know is that their family supports and loves them. And we’re here to assure you that showing up for your child doesn’t require any special knowledge or training. It simply starts with a willingness to listen to what they’re going through. The team at Bend is here to help you support your child for exactly who they are! 

Top ways to support your child’s identity 

Offering your child a safe, affirming, compassionate, and supportive space will help them build resilience and improve self-esteem. 

Here are the top ways you can support the child, teen, or young adult in your life: 

  • Listen and encourage open, honest conversations. Show up for your child by listening respectfully to what they have to say without interrupting, shaming, or judging them. Validate their experience and emotions rather than downplaying what they are going through or offering immediate solutions.
  • ‍Make your home a safe haven. Get on the same page as a family that your home is a place where everyone can feel safe and accepted for who they are. You can help your child feel more comfortable exploring their identity by letting them know that you have an open mind and by discussing society’s stereotypes. Encourage them to express themselves in whatever fashions they choose and use language that is inclusive and encouraging.
  • ‍Be their biggest advocate. Let your child take the lead when it comes to sharing their sexuality or gender identity with other family members, but let them know that you’ll be there to support them throughout the process. You can also be an advocate for LGBTQIA+ rights in your community by working with local organizations and showing pride for your child’s identity. 
  • ‍Respect and reaffirm their chosen identity. It’s okay if you are struggling to understand your child’s identity, clothing choices, chosen name, or pronouns. But it’s important to show support by using and respecting their chosen name and pronouns, regardless of the complicated emotions you may be experiencing. Be prepared that your child may change labels more than once as they begin to explore their identity. Try to remember that wherever they are in their journey, it’s essential to show up and support them exactly as they are in the moment.
  • Make space for your emotions. It’s completely understandable for you to be experiencing a range of emotions that may include grief, fear, and confusion. You may be afraid of discrimination, losing community, the judgment of those around you, or of simply not knowing what to say. Whatever is coming up for you is valid and it’s important to make time and space to process it all so that it doesn’t put pressure or blame on your child. You can find support by talking to other LGBTQIA+ caregivers via support groups, journaling, reaching out to a trusted friend, or talking to a mental health professional.

We’re excited that you’re here to celebrate your child’s identity! Just by taking the time to read this article, you’re showing up in a BIG WAY for your child. Continue to offer them love and support, while asking for help if you need it along the way.