Proud Parents Need Support, Too

June 23, 2023

Proud Parents Need Support, Too

When it comes to helping LGBTQIA+ youth in the journey of becoming their full selves, there are an increasing number of resources including JF&CS’ own Owen Halpern LGBTQIA+ Affirming Therapy practice, and some of the incredible local and national organizations listed in the article below. Still, there is no resource more paramount to the safety and success of young people than the unconditional love and support of their own parents.

The directive to love your kids unconditionally seems simple enough, but the journey for parents of LGBTQIA+ kids carries its own difficulty. Even for the most well-meaning and supportive parents, it can be hard to know what to do, what to say, and how to help. Parents often feel ill-equipped to navigate new challenges involving the safety of their kids, as well as the societal expectations they may not have realized they were carrying.

We recently spoke with JF&CS’ Parent Coach Cari Newman to learn more about the importance of parental support, how parents can support their kids, and the importance of believing kids every step of the way.

How important is parental support for kids and teens as they navigate changing gender and sexual identities?

Cari Newman: Parents who support their children unconditionally are more likely to be rewarded with close, trusting relationships with them as they grow into the most authentic version of themselves. Close parent–child relationships remain one of the strongest predictors of how LGBTQ+ youth thrive. In fact, the level of parental support of kids and teens navigating their gender and sexual identities can make the difference between life and death for these children. According to the Trevor Project, LGBTQ+ youth who felt high social support from their family reported attempting suicide at less than half the rate of those who felt low or moderate social support. Parents who are unwilling to accept or support their LGBTQ+ or curious children send the message that there is only one acceptable way to be. This is incredibly harmful to individuals and relationships.

How can parents best support their kids?

CN: The first thing parents can do is stop worrying about what everyone else thinks. Our number one job is to nurture our children as they are and to support them in becoming the people THEY want to be. If we concern ourselves with who thinks what, we become paralyzed by society’s expectations of us and our kids. The second thing that parents can do is believe their children. When kids tell you who they are, that is who they are. Will they always be that exact way? Maybe not, but people change constantly over their lifetimes. If we don’t let children be who they are, while also growing and evolving, we take away their very humanity. And last—but most importantly—parents should show unconditional love, care, and commitment to the wellbeing of their children, even if it doesn’t look like what they expected.

Are there any central issues that your LGBTQIA+ clients and parents are experiencing recently?

CN: All children go through the growing pains and unknowns that are a natural part of childhood and young adulthood. Queer kids have the added layer of questioning things everyone thought were “a given” about who they are. On top of that, they have to consider what their families might think, how their friends will react, and what they might be like as they grow up. These questions can be very anxiety-inducing for kids, so some avoid asking them, especially if they aren’t confident they will be supported at home. This can lead to isolation, loneliness, and depression. A central issue for kids is “What if?”

Parents who seek support are concerned about the judgment of others, how family members will react, and whether this is real or “a phase” for their kids (see above re: believing kids). But even parents who are totally, unconditionally accepting of their children stay up at night worrying about them. Parents must navigate school systems, camps, doctors’ offices, public restrooms, and planning family vacations to places that will allow their children to feel and be safe. A central issue for parents is “What now?”

How can we help kids feel safe and supported in our current political climate?

CN: Many people imagine that it is much easier to come out in 2023 than at any other time in history, and in some ways that’s true. But for every child you see with a rainbow flag shirt, many are silently struggling, fearful of rejection, and terrified about their safety.

The number one thing parents can do for their LGBTQ+ kids is to remind them as often as possible that they are not in this alone. They are supported unconditionally by their parents, family, and friends, and a whole community of people fighting for their rights. A way to facilitate this is by joining family groups, going to camps, and hanging out with friends in the same boat. As small as it seems, a “Pride” shirt or rainbow flag bumper sticker can speak volumes to kids about familial acceptance.

Another important way to help kids feel safe and supported is by highlighting Queer joy! It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the news of how some are trying to erase the rights and humanity of LGBTQ+ people, but there are millions of places to find stories of joyful, loving celebration of queerness if you seek them out. One good place to start is with children’s books. Another place to look is the It Gets Better project.

If the kids are old enough, it’s also empowering for them to support initiatives and organizations that are working to defend the rights of LGBTQ+ people of all ages.

Where can parents turn for help navigating some of these challenges?

CN: Close to home, SOJOURN is the Southern Jewish Resource Network for outreach, advocacy, and education. This is a great local resource.

Keshet is a national organization for LGBTQIA+ equality in all facets of Jewish life. They also have an extensive online resource library.

PFLAG is dedicated to supporting, educating, and advocating for LGBTQIA+ people and those who love them. They run groups online and in person to support family members of LGBTQIA+ kids, teens, and adults.

Periodicals like Parents Magazine have a wealth of information that tackles everything from sleepovers to mental health.

The Human Rights Campaign has an extensive parenting section on its website which addresses almost any issue you can imagine, as does The Trevor Project. The Trevor Project also has live 24/7 support by phone, text, or online chat.

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach in parenting, and the target is constantly in motion. No matter how confused, exhausted, or disheartened you feel, there is hope and support for your family. If you’d like to work with Cari one-on-one on any parenting issues, please reach out to us at or call 770.677.9474.

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