lbgtq parents with child

Ways to support parents who identify as LGBTQ+

LGBTQIA+ parents may face discrimination, leading to a decline in mental health and a general need for support. Learn about the resources available to them here.

Today millions of children grow up in a family with a parent or parents who are members of the LGBTQIA+ community. The structure of an LGBTQ family can take on many forms. LGBTQ parents can be single, divorced, remarried, same-sex couples, co-parents, and more.

LGBTQ parents, or those wishing to become parents, need appropriate support if they seek professional counseling. Therapists who work with this population should be prepared with knowledge of the issues facing this community as well as the proper resources and techniques to best help their clients.

The issues LGBTQ parents face

Counselors working with LGBTQ parents should begin with a thorough understanding of the challenges affecting this community.

  • Combatting negative attitudes or biases toward the LGBTQIA+ community: These can either be internally held (within the parents themselves) or from external sources, such as communities, workplaces, schools, or even their children.
  • Communicating with children: Children are naturally curious about their families and the world around them. Some children will be more affected than others by the fact that their family is “different” in some way. LGBTQ parents must carefully and clearly communicate with and educate their children about the LGBTQIA+ community. Children of LGBTQ parents may also face bigotry and questioning while outside of the home, which can lead to difficult conversations.
  • Legal battles in marriage and adoption: While some of these laws have been overturned today, LGBTQIA+ individuals have faced discriminatory laws surrounding marriage and the ability to have, foster, or adopt a child.

3 resources for LGBTQ parents

LGBTQ parents may face discrimination from their communities or extended families as well as deal with issues of self-acceptance, which can lead to a decline in mental health. Here are a few measures of support that can positively affect LGBTQIA+ parents.

1. Educational and LGBTQ parenting resources

Living in a heteronormative society, any family that strays from the “nuclear mold” will tend to require extra care and communication with family and children. It’s not always easy for LGBTQIA+ parents to know exactly how and when to come out to their children or family.

Some LGBTQ parents choose to talk openly about their sexuality from the very beginning. They also may introduce educational and diverse reading or other materials to their children at a young age. Other parents may not have the opportunity to do this if they came out later in life or faced other barriers. Overall, open and honest communication is best for both the parents and children.

Many resources and communities are available for LGBTQ parents, including Rainbow Families, an organization that “educates, connects, and supports LGBTQ+ families and parents-to-be.” The ADL also has a collection of LGBTQ resources and reading for children.

2. Affirmative therapy

Affirmative therapy is a specific form of therapy that actively promotes self-acceptance of identity as a key part of well-being. It is used primarily for LGBTQIA+ individuals who often face negative mental health outcomes at the hands of discrimination or their own mental health issues.

By seeking out and participating in affirmative therapy, LGBTQ parents can work to address the issues they face in their lives and seek mental wellness. It also allows individuals to work through any internalized homophobia and unlearn unhealthy behaviors. This makes them a better person to themselves, and in turn, their children.

3. Support networks

Sometimes, the best form of support is knowing you are not alone. As an LGBTQ parent, it’s easy to feel isolated in an otherwise heteronormative society. In an effort to support both themselves and their children, many LGBTQ parents will join networks or support groups with families similar theirs.

In these settings, LGBTQ parents and children can openly discuss any issues or questions they have and hold comfort that the others in their network more closely understand their situations.

These support networks can be informal as in the form of friends, family, or neighbors. They can also be structured support groups or official organizations built for LGBTQ families, such as COLAGE (Children of Lesbians and Gays Everywhere) or the Family Pride Coalition.

LGBTQIA+ marriage and family therapy

Marriage and family therapists are important parts of mental wellness for any family. In some cases, these therapists may specialize in counseling for the LGBTQIA+ community.

Informed by the strengths and experiences of the LGBTQIA+ community, therapists in this specialization are best suited to provide counsel to a wide range of clients and family situations.

Interested in pursuing a career in therapy with a focus in LGBTQIA+ care? Pacific Oaks College offers an M.A. in Marriage and Family Therapy: LGBTQIA+ Studies Specialization. Visit our program page for more information.

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