The Importance of Transgender-Affirmative Parenting

By Sophie Pellegrini, MSW, LMSW

Most parents want nothing more than for their children to thrive, succeed, and experience all the best in life; it can be painful and challenging as a parent to come to terms with your child having an identity or lived experience that you imagine may make their life harder. We know that transgender and gender expansive people are more likely to experience mental health challenges, discrimination, isolation, harassment, bullying, and rejection, due to societal systems of oppression based on gender, compared to cisgender folks. Considering this reality as the parent of a trans person may mean confronting many of your own challenging emotions—such as fear, anger, grief, anxiety, and sadness. 

Fortunately, we also know that affirmative, supportive parenting can have a significant positive impact. Trans folks who perceive their parents as supportive and affirming report better positive mental, physical, and emotional health outcomes. For example, those with affirmative parents are:

  • Over twice as likely to experience life satisfaction
  • Over twice as likely to report very good overall health 
  • Five times as likely to have high self-esteem 
  • Less than half as likely to attempt suicide than those who didn’t perceive support  

In other words, trans-affirmative parenting can make a world of difference to trans folks. So, what does it actually mean to be affirming and supportive of your transgender child, and how does that responsibility and privilege shift as your child moves through teenagehood and young adulthood? This will be one of the many topics we explore during an upcoming 8-week education and support group for parents, guardians, and caretakers of transgender, gender expansive, and gender-questioning teens and young adults: Trans Affirmative Parenting.

If you want to be a more supportive parent for your transgender, gender expansive, or gender questioning teen or young adult child, but you don’t know where to start, consider joining us. By gaining a better understanding of gender and trans identities, reflecting on your own experiences of gender socialization, getting a solid grasp on the ever-shifting terminology, and learning about the world of options for transitioning, you will be in a better position to compassionately support and walk alongside your teen or young adult in their gender journey. You will be given space, support, and skills for processing and navigating your emotions, allowing you to connect more authentically with your child. You will also have the opportunity to learn alongside and connect with other parents going through similar experiences, creating a community that will celebrate your successes and growth along the way. 

Feel free to reach out at sophie@mindfulstl.com with any questions. 

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