We often get this question from concerned parents. The teenage years are hard enough to navigate for cis-gender children, however, questioning one’s gender identity often requires time and support.
We recommend you welcome your child’s questioning with authenticity and openness. This means getting curious about your child’s thoughts, feelings, and ideas around their gender and what it means to them. Try to avoid assuming you know how they identify, questioning why now, or trying to piece together their childhood in a way that fits this new narrative (these can feel invalidating). Instead, focus on what your child is experiencing in the present. Let them know they are loved and supported in your home (more on what this can look like in our part 2). Explore whether they have other resources for support such as friends (online and in-person), teachers, or other groups with whom they feel comfortable sharing this information with. If not, perhaps you both can explore these ideas together. Additionally, encourage exploration through educational materials (included at the bottom of this page) for you and your family. Lastly, it can be helpful to introduce the idea of therapy to your teen.
Therapy can be a place where they can talk to someone openly about their ideas, fears, beliefs, frustrations, and anything else without the fear of judgment or punishment. Therapy can also help them learn how to better understand their gender so they can talk about it more coherently with you and others in their life. Lastly, it can also help teens explore what options they have for social and/or medical transition. Group therapy can also be a great resource for teens questioning their gender to find community and support.
This can often sound overwhelming to parents who are wanting to support their teens, but have never questioned their own gender and have little knowledge of how to move forward. We at EK Counseling are happy to offer services to you in order to help you better learn how to be the best parent you can be in this situation. No one writes the handbook on these difficult parenting moments, and we are glad to assist in helping you navigate them with grace and authenticity.
Dr. Emily A. Kerr (pronouns: she/her/hers) is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist and owner of EK Counseling, LLC,a Denver therapy practice. With over thirteen years of experience treating individuals and couples, she brings her candor, humor, and motivation to each session. She specializes in eating disorders, body image struggles, sexuality and gender, life transitions, general anxiety, and building self-esteem. If you are struggling to make a transition, or you just need extra support to create lasting lifestyle changes, please call to schedule an appointment.