Having found out that your child is transgender is a big message to take in. You might be worried that you don’t know how or what to do or say, or that what you are doing is not enough.
If this is the case, before you read the tips below, please consider adopting one fundamental principle underlying your actions:
As long as your every decision is made out of love, after thorough, open-hearted investigation and with your child’s best interest in mind – you cannot make a decision that is ‘wrong’. Each decision will be the best one to your knowledge at the time. And you may surprise yourself in this process with how much your heart is capable of expanding and accepting.
Give yourself time to take it in
Although your child might be urging you to declare absolute support and understanding, you may need time to get to where they are. Your child has most likely been thinking about it for a while. They may have read up, joined internet forums, or may just feel strongly about it, even though they may be very young. However, you have only just ‘arrived’ at this new ‘destination’ and are looking around, getting to know the landscape. Be kind to yourself. Don’t think you aren’t a good parent because you are still adjusting to new reality. Educate yourself the best you can.
Keep things in perspective – life goes on
Your child’s transition process is a lifetime project. You are the one at the ‘compass watch’ in this journey. They are completely absorbed by what is happening at the moment, but they still need to take one day at a time, go to school, and remember that their identity is more than the sex or gender aspect. Although in the beginning it may feel like life has exploded, you will soon realise that they are the same child, same socks on the floor, same arguments about washing up and they still count on you to keep the normality going.
Look for support – talk to ‘caring others’
Please acknowledge that what you are going through is tough and you may need support. You need to be strong for your child, for yourself and for the other family members who are also in that process. Talk to those who wish you well, are genuinely interested, and preferably also knowledgeable. There are support groups for parents, and hopefully at least one good friend who will give you a hug and empathy without needing to judge or give advice.
Don’t talk to those who are likely to make things more difficult (unless you can’t avoid it)
You may feel that you have an obligation to tell your family, church community, even though you suspect that they won’t understand. If that’s the case, I would suggest that you don’t – at least not until you are strong enough to face the possibility of not being supported, or being flooded with opinions and advice that you didn’t ask for.
There will be people whose views are adamantly unaccepting, there will be people who are just unsure or threatened in their views. Out of their best intentions they may hurt you with unskillfully placed comments and ‘support’. Your responsibility is to protect yourself and prevent it from happening. The best way is to be very clear who you are sharing with and how much is appropriate to know for each individual. It is a bit exhausting, but worth an effort.
Remember – they are still your child
Initially it may be difficult to understand this new aspect of their identity, especially if it means loss of certain hopes and scenarios you had for them, but stick to the things that are still the same and that you love about them. If you find it hard to switch from my son – to my daughter, or use the different pronoun, or the name that they have chosen, refer to them as “my child”. It will always be true.
Last but not least
Your child is going through the difficult process and ultimately they have to do it alone. It helps to understand what it takes. Please read Tips for children to get an insight to their side of the journey.
For more information and helpful articles from Anna, visit Counselling Directory or Jezuita Therapy. Click to discover advice on My Child is Transgender - How to Support Yourself and Your Child.