Sexual orientation and gender are important aspects of a young person’s identity.
Adolescence is a time of physical, mental, and social exploration. Due to biological and social factors, it can also the time when many lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer/questioning (LGBTQ) youth begin to self-identify or recognize that they may be feeling differently than some of their peers. Many LGBTQ adolescents thrive during this time and find happiness, however, when compared to their heterosexual counterparts, LGBTQ youth are more likely to experience difficulties.
While exploring concepts of gender and sexual orientation, an LGBTQ teenager may be concerned about feeling accepted by their friends and family, being bullied, or even feeling safe at home or school if they identify as LGBTQ. Although the decision to “come out” may be easy for some, many teens can feel anxiety or stress when considering opening up to others. Teens might describe feeling confused about their gender and sexual identities due to a lack of information, potential internalized stigma, a lack of positive role models, and the inability to connect with other youth that have similar experiences. If a teen feels conflicted about the way they feel, they may try to avoid thinking about it or isolate themselves from others. LGBTQ youth are at an increased risk for depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, self-defeating behaviors, and suicide, especially when they feel rejected from family and peers.
Counseling can help LGBTQ adolescents cope. Our psychologists can help teens gain a deeper understanding of their gender identity and/or sexual orientation, as well as create a welcoming environment that facilitates open discussion and further awareness. Often teens will agonize about coming out to their parents, worried that the reaction will be negative. Therapy can help your teen to better communicate in a supportive space. Furthermore, learning how to connect with others, especially in a romantic way can be a challenge for many LGBTQ teens. Talking with a counselor can help you child to explore relational concepts, including how to know if someone may be interested and how to date when the stakes feel so high.
Parents can also seek therapy to learn ways to support their children and how to help them to navigate through the difficult situations that may arise from their child’s ongoing identity exploration. Some parents may even suspect that their child is LGBTQ, but may feel uncomfortable or awkward bringing it up. Research indicates that a parent’s response to their LGBTQ child directly impacts their current and future mental health and wellness. Our psychologists are available to help parents create a supportive home environment that will encourage growth and understanding.