Newswise — When President Trump recently announced via Twitter that the U.S. armed forces would ban transgender people from military service – an action that Pentagon leaders quickly said would not go into effect immediately—the news added to the anxiety many transgender teens experience on a daily basis.
“Trans teens are already at a higher risk of adverse mental health outcomes,” says Dr. Natalia Ramos, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at UCLA who specializes in LGTBQ patients. “And now they are being bombarded with messages that fuel feelings of discrimination and non-acceptance from society.”
The good news is that a supportive relationship with parents is one of the strongest bulwarks against negative messages for LGTBQ teens, Ramos says. One of the most important tasks for a parent is to find out what their teen is picking up from the news and be prepared to have a conversation about it.
“Chances are, your teen picks up more than you may think. It’s good to ask questions about what they are hearing and what they think about it,” Ramos says. “Be accepting of your teen’s feelings about the news, whatever they may be.”
Ramos offers other tips for parents to help a gender-nonconforming child:
- Send the message to your teen that you are here to support them, in whatever way they identify or express themselves.
- Foster your teen’s ability to face obstacles and setbacks. For many teens, this means developing meaningful peer relationships and having positive role models, Ramos says.
- Encourage your teen to engage with a supportive community center, activity or group. These activities can help build positive self-esteem and friendships.
- Inform yourself. Ramos recommends resources including the Family Acceptance Project the Human Rights Campaign and PFLAG.