Monday, 18 October 2021

Tips For Families Of Trans Children

A couple of years ago, one of our children informed us that they felt that their gender at birth wasn't correct.

This is a story I've shared before, and the reason for that is that I'm aware just how isolating an experience this can be...for the child themselves of course but also for their family members. 

When a young person comes out as or realises that they are transgender, the focus is all on their experience - and rightly so, of course. But having been on the receiving end of hundreds of messages from other parents of transgender children since sharing my own story, I'm so aware of just how deeply this experience can effect their family members too. 
 Suddenly you find yourself thrust into a world that may well be entirely new to you and often without the support of those around you. This may well be something that came completely out of the blue for you, you may not have any experience or understanding of what it means to be transgender and no doubt you find yourself completely consumed with worry for what your loved one is going to experience.

A few months ago, I shared a post offering my advice for families of transgender children on how best to support them - and I wanted to update that to add in some advice on how to look after and support yourself during this transition period too. Because if you're not taking good care of yourself too, then you won't be able to be the best possible support for your loved one either. 

Don't Jump Ahead

It's tempting to start thinking way into the future when you first find out that your child is transgender. I know that I often found myself spending many a sleepless night worrying about things that were way into the future, like whether or not my child would find love or have children of their own  - despite the fact that she's a young child and that none of these things are guaranteed for anyone!

I also found myself under self-imposed pressure to know everything right away. I felt that I needed to be able to answer people's questions about future medical interventions, potential surgeries available and treatment plans on offer for transgender people even though these things were not going to be part of our lives for a very long time, and I couldn't possibly know what route my child would decide to take on any of these things.

None of these things were healthy ways to manage. What I needed to do, was focus on the here and now. The future is completely unknown to all parents and children so there's truly no sense in worrying about it all now.

Focus on finding out what you need to know right now, and then let the rest go - when it's time to start thinking about these big future things, your child will let you know. 

Find A Private Space For Your Own Emotions

When  your child first articulates their gender identity to you, the most important thing to do is reassure them that they are loved and supported by you. You will naturally want to protect them from any negativity, and that no doubt includes protecting them from any struggles or feelings of uncertainty or even grief that you are personally feeling around this.

Airing your own worries and concerns for your child is not going to be something that's beneficial for them to hear, but that doesn't mean that you need to keep them completely bottled up. It's important to find a safe and private space of your own, away from your child, that will enable you to talk through and process your own feelings about what's happening....this could be by confiding in a trusted friend, finding a support group online or locally for parents of LGBTQ youth or by seeking professional support (many mental health services offer LGBTQ counselling which can be so beneficial both for the young person and their family members.). This space to explore and process your own feelings without impacting your child will be so beneficial, particularly in those early days.

Focus On The Positives

The main one being that your child has chosen to trust you with their truth. They have told you how they feel and who they are - I like to look at this as proof that my child feels safe and supported in her family environment. 
I see it as an honour that my child has trusted us with her truth.

There are lots of other positives to think of, too - the fact that transgender youth today have so much more available to them in the way of support and resources, people are so much more aware of what it means to be trans now and although there is still a long way to go with regards to trans rights - I feel hopeful that my child's generation will be the ones to bring about big changes. Being transgender isn't a bad thing and it doesn't have to be a scary thing.

Utilise Available Resources

There are so many incredible support groups, forums, influencers, activists and authors around putting out such valuable and educational content around growing up as a trans child - make use of these! Read books by trans writers, listen to podcasts by trans people.... Listen to trans voices, focus on true lived experiences and soak up all of the knowledge that you can from those who know it best. 

Remember What's Important

Your child's happiness and wellbeing is what really matters. No matter what anybody thinks or says. 

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