Kids are not their parents. While some parents hope that their children grow up to be just like them, it was once said that it’s better to teach a child how to think than to teach a child what to think. For this reason, it’s important to allow a teenager to go through the natural stages of self-exploration and discovery. With that comes identity challenges that may be scary or even confusing to well-intentioned parents. It’s important to remember that your child is scared and confused too.
If your child is struggling, love, compassionate ears, and the right tools will help pull them through. Keep an open mind as you begin the adventure of helping your child figure out who they are. In the end, it will be worth it, and your child will benefit from better self-esteem, overall fulfillment, and a more successful future. If your child is grappling with identity issues, here are some things to consider.
Many parents worry their child will one day come to them to say they are gay, queer, or otherwise part of the LGBT plus community. Whether it’s because they don’t understand this community, worry about their child being bullied, or just don’t know how to relate, this can be an anxiety-producing situation for even the most well-intentioned parents. But if your child is struggling with sexual identity, rest assured, there are people who can help.
The best thing to do to help your child who is coming out is to listen without judgment. Reminding your child and yourself that you love them no matter what and will support their life and identity choices is the greatest act of love a parent can give. While you’re there, do what you can to offer them other supports. Whether it’s a peer network, helpline, or even an online support group or forum, it will help them to have others to talk to.
Do you know happy, successful LGBT adults? Perhaps putting them in touch with your struggling teen would be helpful. A mentor who has experienced what it’s like to work through sexual identity could be exactly what your child needs to make this easier.
If you aren’t sure you can do this and suspect your child is facing a sexual identity crisis, get help for yourself with a simple search like psychiatry nyc, so you can better assist them. Unconditional love and encouragement will go a long way in helping your future relationship with your child, whether they’re gay, straight, trans, queer, or otherwise.
You still aren’t done there. If you’re not familiar with the LGBT community, be sure to do your research and brush up on the latest terms and acronyms too. Preferred pronouns and speaking in an inclusive way will go a long way with helping your child trust that you have their best intentions at heart. Don’t make the mistake of making generalizations or assuming you know all there is to know about this community simply because you’re accepting. Ask questions and take those extra steps to educate yourself, and your kid will not only notice but thank you for it. In this case, words do matter nearly as much as actions.
It’s natural for teenagers to experiment with spiritual and religious views. Regardless of what you’ve taught them, whether or not you have taken them to regular church services, or what you hope for them to believe, it’s a great thing that your child is seeking a higher power they can depend on.
A great way to support a child’s exploration of religion is to learn as much about it as you can too, so you’ll have a common interest. No one says you have to convert. Is your kid into witchcraft? Consider buying them witchcraft supplies as a birthday gift instead of pushing your own views on them.
Faith and spirituality are important to not only our identities but how we conduct ourselves. A belief system will help your child not only through times but serve as a guide when they’re faced with ethical and moral decisions. These are all good things, even when your teenager’s beliefs don’t quite line up with your own. If you’re really freaked out, think of it as a temporary stick on nail polish and realize that kids often experiment and later return to the family values and traditions you’ve raised them with. Instead of calling in the family priest or interventionist, allow them to experiment. They will later thank you for it and become more confident about their future choices and beliefs too.
While your child isn’t old enough to vote, they might be very interested in politics. As the political climate in America continues to get more and more heated, it’s natural for kids to take strong stands on where their political beliefs fall. Instead of telling your child what to believe when it comes to politics, use this as an opportunity to help them understand their own beliefs.
Encouraging your child to be active in activist or other political groups at school or in the community is one way to help them become community minded. Whether you agree with their politics or not, it’s great that you have managed to raise a teenager who is civic-minded. Encourage healthy and well-intentioned political involvement. Who knows? You could be raising the next public servant.
Why It’s Worth It
While watching your teen figure out who they are can be difficult, it can be rewarding too. By listening, offering unconditional support and love, and helping them to find resources, you’re doing your job as well as possible. It’s not a parent’s job to tell a child who to be. Instead, the best parents allow their children to make up their own minds about who they are and how they will be happiest in the future.
While some identity crises are simply phases, be patient about those too. While there could be periods where you don’t recognize your own kid, things will eventually settle. In the end, you’ll be entirely and fully connected to a child who’s happy and well adjusted if you just stick with it and give them and yourself the proper tools.