Sometimes when we learn new things about our kids we struggle to come to terms with them, and this reader reached out to us with a question about their child. Kate Tregan, founder and CEO of Explorare, offers advice for dealing with this sensitive situation.
My son shows signs of hatred towards his (her) life, well he came out to me the year before last year and told me that he's gay. I didn't know how to address the issue at first but I accept him, then last year again he tells me that he wants to transition into a girl.
I want to help her, what can I do? Which steps should I take in order to help her? Please help.
A Concerned Parent
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Dear Concerned Parent,
Firstly, I would like to share my appreciation and acknowledge you, for your acceptance of your child. I believe the most important thing in situations like this is for a person to feel accepted no matter who they love, their sexual orientation or gender identity. Knowing you belong and are loved no matter what, is so important to who we are as humans, and is intrinsic to our happiness.
We still live in a world which can be very judgmental of people who have a different sexual orientation or gender identity, which can leave people, like your child, feeling shame and fear. These can be tough and challenging emotions to feel. These feelings, all their feelings, need to be honoured and have the space to be expressed and felt.
Also read: A parent's guide: Help your child welcome a trans classmate
Often when a person is feeling a lot of anger or hate it is a secondary response. What I mean by that often there is another emotion which a person can feel first, such as sadness, pain or hurt. Then anger arises to protect us from feeling the hurt or create distance from the situations or people we feel are creating the hurt. Anger can also be present when we feel our boundaries have been crossed or our safety is threatened.
Supporting your child to develop the skills they need to notice what they are feeling, name it and understand the message the feeling is telling them is very important. If we do not acknowledge how we are feeling and keep our feeling locked inside they will get bigger and louder until we pay attention to them. You and your child are embarking on a journey together acknowledging, being honest about how you are both feeling and feeling through your emotions will be key for you both.
I would like to recommend that you be honest in your communication with your child. It is okay to say I am feeling overwhelmed, I am not sure of the next step, and we are going to figure it out together. This is not about using your child to depend on emotionally rather it is about showing them it is okay to have big, uncomfortable feelings and we can find a way through together.
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On a practical level I would highly recommend finding a psychologist or organisation who can support you with the next steps. An organisation which I recommend is genderdynamix.org.za.
When a person feels like who they are on the inside does not match the body they were born in, it can cause feelings of anxiety, stress, confusion and frustration. Trust you child’s feeling and knowing of who they are and what they want. Find a supportive network of people, friends and professionals who you can lean into when you have questions and need support.
Send us your burning questions, we might approach an expert on your behalf and share their answers. Anonymous contributions are welcome.