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Respecting your child’s pronouns (and why it matters)

Parent

Kid

Teen

LGBTQIA+

Resilience

Relationships

June 7, 2023

Our pronouns (he, she, they, etc.) define who we identify as and who we are to other people. So if your child asks you to refer to them by a different pronoun than they were assigned at birth, know that these words really matter and it's time to listen up.

For example, your child may identify as “she” even though they were assigned male at birth. So by beginning to call your child “she” as requested, you’re taking a huge step in supporting their gender identity. Of course you may sometimes forget or make a mistake — and that’s okay! Just own it, correct yourself, and move on to show your child that you see and respect them. 

Using your child’s correct gender pronouns is one of the most simple ways you can show support and it can make a BIG difference in helping them to live their best life.  According to The Trevor Project, there is a 29% decrease in suicidal ideation and a 56% decrease in suicidal behavior for youth when their chosen name is used.

Sadly, many LGBTQIA+ youth face rejection from their families, which can lead to homelessness and other adverse outcomes. By contrast, supportive parents significantly reduce the risk of their child experiencing such hardships. A loving and accepting home environment provides a vital safety net for LGBTQIA+ youth.

Supportive parents contribute significantly to their child's overall well-being. LGBTQIA+ youth who feel supported at home are less likely to engage in risky behaviors such as substance abuse, self-harm, or unsafe sexual practices. They are also more likely to have higher educational achievements and better social connections.

By embracing and accepting their child's sexual orientation or gender identity, parents can foster a positive and nurturing environment that promotes their child's well-being and development.

Understanding non-binary identity

Non-binary is an umbrella term for individuals whose gender identity doesn't align with the traditional binary of male and female. Some non-binary people may identify as a combination of genders outside the gender binary or without gender. Recognize that gender identity is deeply personal, and your child's experience is unique to them. 

Parenthood is a journey of discovery and growth, and part of that journey may involve supporting a child who identifies as non-binary. It is essential to create a nurturing environment where your child feels seen, accepted, and loved for who they are. 

Top tips to help you support your child 

We know it can be tough to navigate, so that’s why we’re here with helpful strategies and ways you can consistently show up to support your child or teen. 

  • Educate yourself: Take the time to learn about gender identity, non-binary pronouns, and different gender expressions. Understanding the importance of using the correct pronouns can help you commit to making the necessary adjustments.
  • Communicate openly: Have an open and honest conversation with your child about their preferred pronouns. Ask them which pronouns they would like you to use and let them know you are actively trying to respect their identity. It's okay to express vulnerability here and ask your child to give you some grace as you adjust to using the proper language. 
  • Practice: Use your child's pronouns when they're not around. Doing this can help you get more comfortable and familiar with using them. You can use their pronouns in your mind or written form (e.g., writing letters or notes with the correct pronouns).
  • Make it a habit: Integrate using the correct pronouns into your daily routine. The more you practice using them, the more likely it will become second nature. Consider reminding yourself regularly, especially at the beginning, by setting reminders or using affirmations.
  • Correct yourself: If you catch yourself using the wrong pronouns, correct yourself right away. Apologize, correct the pronoun, and continue the conversation. Remember, it's okay to make mistakes, but it's important to acknowledge and correct them.
  • Surround yourself with support: Share your commitment to respecting your child's pronouns with trusted friends and family members who interact with your child regularly. Ask them to hold you accountable and help you practice using the correct pronouns.
  • Seek guidance from your child: If you're unsure about any aspect of your child's gender identity or how to navigate pronoun usage, don't hesitate to ask your child for guidance. They will appreciate your efforts to understand and support them better.

Remember, this is a process that takes time to adjust to new language patterns. By being open, patient, and actively working on using the correct pronouns, you can show your child that you respect and accept their identity.. When parents demonstrate love, acceptance, and understanding, it reinforces their bond. This bond becomes a source of support and comfort for the child, leading to a healthier and more fulfilling parent-child relationship.

By understanding and embracing your child's gender identity, fostering open communication, educating yourself, providing support and validation, and seeking professional help, you create an environment where your child can thrive authentically. Together, we can build a more inclusive world that celebrates and respects the diversity of gender identities. Embrace your role as an advocate and ally, and reach out to the team at Bend for support along the way.