LGBTQ Kids: A Guide

Parenting is full of challenges. We face them everyday- food allergies, mental and/or physical disabilities, bullying, and the list goes on.

There’s a point in life in which our kids decide to date and none of us are ever ready for that- it freaks us out. This happens as early as 12 or 13 or can be years later.

Most of us don’t blink an eye at who they will date, because we just assume they will date someone of the opposite sex, right?

What Happens When They Don’t?

I’ve already thought this one out. I don’t care. As long as my kids find someone that loves and supports them, I honestly don’t care who they date. Race isn’t an issue for obvious reason, and that’s not the topic of the post.

I just want my kids to be happy with whoever they love. That’s it. If Lily brings home a girl and they get married, then I get to watch them say yes to the dress or whatever they wear.

Lgbt flag, kids, parenting

Being a teen is hard enough as it is today. There’s so much pressure to get great grades, fit in, get into a good college, work, and so on.

When you’re a 16 year old girl who likes other girls, it gets a bit harder to be “normal”. You wonder if others would still like you, even your own family. You grew up hearing slurs about homosexuals and you know it’s not going to be great if you tell your parents.

Then there’s the boys who want to date you and you know they won’t stay away forever. All you want is to find a girl that likes you and that you like back, but how does that work? It’s confusing and scary. Bullying is a thing, and LGBTQ teens have it harder.

Stats hrc.org, kids, LGBTQ

Coming out is scary. It’s rough. The average age is 17, much younger than it used to be according to a British study found on Everyday Feminism

Teens are smart- they know the risks of telling their families something this big. Some families are accepting, and some families are ready to kick their kids right out of the house, which is a shame.

It’s heartbreaking to know that some kids feel they have to hide this part of themselves, because it can lead to drug and/or substance abuse issues, along with mental health issues, like depression and anxiety. A kid can only mask so much for so long. It does get better, time goes by, people do open their minds to new things.

Sometimes the people they think will have horrible reactions will have the opposite reaction. The negative messages are also an issue- they can send a message that a kid is a bad person, or is “going to hell”, etc. This can just add to already negative thoughts that a kid can have about themselves.

It gets better when LGBTQ kids find others like them- online, in school, through other friends, in other ways. It does help that many LGBTQ kids are out to their friends and classmates. Those friends and classmates, for the most part, are accepting, and can be a great source of support.

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What Can Parents Do?

  • Let them know you love them. I’m pretty sure this is the biggest part of accepting your child, no matter what. They need to know this. The scariest thing to many LGBTQ kids is coming out. Once they know they have parental support, there is a huge sense of relief. Be as open minded and present as you can be, even if you aren’t quite sure what to do.
  • Research. Parenting requires a lot of thinking and reading. We don’t always know what to do. That’s why the Internet exists. There are quite a few websites for parents of LGBTQ kids, including Hopkins Medicine
  • Talk about it. This doesn’t mean hound about their sex life, because that’s definitely awkward for everyone involved, but let them know you are there when they need you, if they have questions, etc.
  • Remember this is not a “phase”, there is no “cure”, and there is nobody to “blame”.
  • Watch out for bullying at school. It’s a reality that LGBTQ kids are bullied at school and other places. If you need to, get involved with the school. You can read Bullying: A Closer Look for more ideas and resources.
  • Talk to someone if you feel overwhelmed.

Female couple, acceptance

The world of teenage dating can get pretty complicated, this is just a different road. It’s possible to walk together with your child. Cheer them on!

Pics courtesy of Unsplash

Statistics pics courtesy of hrc.org

Info can be found on:

Everyday Feminism

Hopkins Medicine

Men and Mental Health

As kids, most boys were told not to cry. They were told to be tough, to be “real men”, and those men didn’t cry and show emotions. They hid their feelings, no matter the cost.

This piece of advice has had terrible consequences, leading to high substance abuse rates, violence against women and children (among others) and other issues. When you can’t let out your feelings in a healthy way, it tends to come out badly. It also leads to higher rates of depression, anxiety and lack of self-care.

Why Men Don’t Seek Help

Everyone needs to take care of themselves, physically and mentally. This is a well-known fact. Men have a harder time acknowledging this because of the stigma they face in doing so. This will be covered in a later post, so stay tuned, but here are a few examples of what many men fear when going for help:

  • Being labeled as “weak”, “sick”, or any number of labels.
  • Having to be vulnerable. I can say from personal experience that starting therapy is rough. You are opening up with some of your worst demons to someone you just met..many men (and women) are not having it.
  • Being judged by those who know that they are getting help.

This information is in The Stigma of Mental Illness

Untreated mental illness can also lead to suicide, which has a higher rate in men, and men usually use more lethal means.

This fact breaks my heart each time I read it. Suicide in itself is heartbreaking and has far-reaching consequences.

As a mom, I’m teaching my kids that it’s okay to cry. My sons know it’s okay to have emotions. In light of numerous teen suicides in the news and those that I have lost to suicide personally, I feel a huge responsibility to watch out for my kids’ mental health. It’s HARD to be a kid these days.

Cameron started taking daily naps when he started middle school, and at first, I thought it was a phase. Then I worried about his heart because his SVT is pretty severe and can tire him out easily.

He told me that he felt fine, that school was just tiring him out. My next question was if anything was bothering him, and thankfully, he said no. Cameron is a pretty chill kid, but you never know.

Julian is pretty quiet, but he knows where Mom is if he needs to talk. So does Lily, but she is NOT the quiet type. The point of this is, please talk to your kids, no matter how rough it may be. Just check in.

What can we do for the men in our lives?

  • Check in with them. Especially if something major has happened to them recently- a death in the family, job loss, etc.
  • Be gentle. Most men facing a mental health issue don’t want to be forced into talking. Matthew’s parents divorced a few years ago, and there was a lot of drama involved. He’s not a huge talker, so I had to let him talk about it at his own pace.
  • Encourage him through whatever he does, if anything. If he decides to seek help, he needs to know you’re behind him 100%.

Of course, if things are going downhill quickly, please seek immediate help. You can go to the nearest ER or call 911.
Resources:

AFSP

Psychology Today

NAMI

If you are more comfortable seeking help online, this BetterHelp link will be helpful for Michigan residents, but the entire site is full of good information.

Tiger the Wanderer 

Our family started with small pets- a turtle and then Tails. We went through a couple of turtles, and then the lovely Miss Purr made her appearance last year. We decided we were done with pets.

Tiger The Old Man

In late April, Tiger showed up in our neighborhood. The kids around here (my kids included) gave him food, water and treats until one night he just wandered up our driveway while Matthew sat there.

I tried making contact with local rescues to see if they would take him. According to a nearby vet, he’s at least 10 years old, blind in his left eye but still appeared to be in good shape. He also wasn’t microchipped. We refused to take him to the major shelter because we knew he wouldn’t last.

So that was it.

The neighborhood kids came up with the name Tiger and it stuck. He’s a boxer/pit with a brindle pattern so it worked well. He fit into our house pretty well. We got him a tag, started taking him on walks and all those other fun things.

Dog pic

We also warned the kids that since he was a senior dog, that he would not live forever. These dogs live about 10-15 years and we have no idea exactly how old Tiger is. We weren’t trying to scare them, just trying to prepare them.

Tiger has been a great dog. He’s super cuddly, loves pizza crusts, great with walks and never showed a bit of aggression. Even though Tails has always been a jerk to him, he just stayed out of his way. Miss Purr and Tiger have become great friends and even take naps together.

Pet nap

Our Sad Goodbye

When Tiger first showed up, we noticed a lump on his leg. It didn’t seem to bother him and we thought it was a cyst. It ruptured, however and I took him to the vet. We were thinking it could be removed and he would be fine, right?

Wrong. Very wrong.

The lump was a tumor. Matthew and I have decided to have Tiger put to sleep. This is after I saw the tumor up close and I broke down sobbing. While I sobbed Tiger just sat there, chilled out as usual. It has spread all over his leg and into other areas. There is no chance they can get it all and/or be able to close it up due to damage and guarantee that it won’t come back. I was also afraid he would die under anesthesia due to his age. This is a very real danger and I just didn’t want to risk it. Amputating his leg is not an option. He would be miserable. If we let him keep going, he will just get sicker. We can’t let him go out like that.

As Trent Reznor once sang, “I wish this could have ended any other way. I just don’t know what else I could do.”
Explaining this to the kids was awful.
There is nothing worse than having to break your kid’s heart knowing you can’t fix the problem. I cried when I told them and Matthew cried along with me. They understand it but are incredibly sad.

The kids have been so good to him. Lily loves walking and cuddling with him. Julian loves sleeping with him. Cameron enjoys their naps together. Me? I love our cuddles and walks. And those weird nudges he does when he wants you to pet him.

I will bring Tiger home tomorrow and we will have one last day with him. He will get his last walks, pizza crusts and treats. He will get lots of cuddles and sleep with Julian. My heart will shatter to leave the vet’s office without him.

Lily and dog

We have loved having Tiger, and he’s loved us right back. He’s had it great with us. I hope that is what he remembers when he wanders across the rainbow bridge.