Is Your LGBTQ Teen Struggling With Identity and Social Issues?
Has your teenager communicated that he or she is lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning if he or she may be? Or, do you suspect that your teen is wondering about his or her sexual identity and is unable to talk openly about it? Even if your teen is communicating openly, does he or she seem to be struggling to make sense of his or her identity and how sexuality and sexual preferences fit into who he or she is? Does your teen appear anxious, overwhelmed, depressed or seem challenged in certain social situations? Are you doing your best to help your child feel supported, understood and accepted, but fear that you may be doing or saying the wrong things? Are you worried about stereotypes or how and where to get your teen appropriate and supportive resources? Do you want to learn how to help or get your teen connected with someone who can?
The teen years are the time when our children figure out how to be adults. They are learning who they are and how to relate with others. Working out personal identity and social issues are what defines the teenage experience. And, it’s not easy. Add to that questions concerning sexuality, community and communication that affect LGBTQ teens and the typical teenage self-esteem, social and identity issues can be compounded. While some LGBTQ teens seem to handle this added layer of stress with relative ease and clarity, for others it can feel really hard. It’s not unusual for some teens to become anxious, socially isolated, highly stressed or experience depression-like symptoms.
Many LGBTQ Teens Struggle With Identity, Social and Communication Issues
Even the most well-adjusted and supported LGBTQ teenager will, at some point, experience anxiety or relationship and communication issues connected to his or her sexual identity. It’s a normal part of questioning sexuality and the “coming out” process. However, rather than dealing with fears in healthy ways, some teens can make risky choices or self-medicate in order to cope with confusing and conflicting emotions. Thankfully, experience show us that therapy can be extremely effective for LGBTQ teens who are struggling more than others with the typical teenage identity and social development issues. A BPS therapist can help your teen work through these issues, along with the added questions, concerns and fears that can arise for today’s LGBTQ teens.
Therapy Can Help Your Teen Accept and Celebrate His or Her Identity and Choices
Your BPS therapist can help your child get clear on who he or she is (or wants to be) in the world. Together, your therapist and teen can discuss what your teen needs to feel happy and what choices he or she can make to feel more confident and calm. These choices can include when and how to come out, how your teen wants to be and feel in relationships, and what kinds of friends and activities can make your teen feel happy and be successful. Your teen can also learn how to navigate difficult social situations, a lack of acceptance by others and potential school issues. Learning these valuable skills now can prepare your teen to handle negativity in healthier ways, as well as to accept and celebrate his or herself for the unique and beautiful person he or she is.
Your BPS therapist can also provide you with education and resources. Your therapist can offer support, guidance and advice on how to communicate with your teen about LGBTQ issues in more effective and helpful ways. You can learn how to have difficult conversations in ways that minimize potential conflict and, instead, lead to a more connected and understanding parent/child relationship.
Therapy can provide a tremendous amount of support for both you and your teen. Dealing with the emotions that being LGBTQ can create becomes a very different and more positive experience when your teen has an expert who is understanding and accepting to talk with. Your BPS therapist can help your teen navigate social and personal identity concerns and make healthy choices, which can help your teen feel much better sooner. Usually, LGBTQ teens do not need years of therapy. Rather, even a little time with an accepting and trusted BPS therapist specializing in LGBTQ counseling for teens can provide immediate and positive relief.
But, you still may have questions or concerns…
We think that therapy could help, but I’m concerned about costs. .
This is your child’s life and wellbeing. Addressing your teen’s LGBTQ issues now may prevent a host of life-long problems and patterns from occurring as he or she leaves your home and enters adulthood. The investment in your teen’s emotional health may not only address the related identity, relationship and self-esteem issues, but also alleviate future struggles and keep potential unhealthy coping patterns and behaviors from being entrenched. Addressing identity and social issues in therapy now can help your teen feel better about his or herself and strengthen his or her ability to develop lasting, healthy relationships now and throughout life.
Many people come to BPS having worked with other therapists who were not trained to work specifically with adolescent LGBTQ issues or who their teen couldn’t relate with – which is a waste of time and money. At BPS, we’ll conduct a increase the likelihood of a good fit, BPS offers an online therapist directory and match your teen with a therapist who is trained and experienced to work with LGBTQ teens and whose personality is a good match for your child’s. Once you find that good match, making a commitment to your teen may be one of the most valuable investments there is. Imagine your child feeling and functioning better on a regular basis – now and in the long-term – and ask yourself what that’s worth.
If money still is an issue, you can talk with your BPS therapist to see if they work on a sliding scale. They may also be able to help you find a resource to help offset cost.
My teen is already so guarded about his or her sexual identity. I think my child may be afraid to come out to anyone – even a therapist – because of a fear of being judged.
The fear your teenager is experiencing is a normal part of the coming out process. However, it’s important that your child feels empowered by the process and recognizes that the decision about how and when to share these personal details is up to him or her. Finding the right therapist is key, and your child should be involved in the interview process. It’s essential that your teen find a therapist who he or she feels accepted by and can trust. BPS is committed to helping you and your teen find the right therapist.
With the right therapist, your teen can learn that letting go of judgments – whether real or perceived – is a big part of the coming out process. And, part of letting go of fear of judgment may happen naturally once your teen feels accepted by his or her therapist. While your teen may feel hesitant about opening up now, your BPS therapist can become a trusted advocate for your teen, help him or her overcome internal struggles and set the groundwork for long-term self-acceptance and confidence.
My teen says that therapy will be a waste of time, and that he or she can manage okay without help.
This is a typical teenage response to the idea of therapy, and one way that your teen is asserting her or her own power. Although your teen may now feel that he or she can handle emotions without help, many teens find that therapy has tremendous benefit and provides a lot of relief. Once in therapy, your teen may realize that there is great comfort in having a confidential relationship with someone who is understanding, accepting and whom he or she can talk to about anything without judgment.
Encourage your teen to attend one or two sessions and to be open with his or her BPS therapist regarding feelings, doubts or fears about therapy. You may be surprised how quickly your teen opens up to the idea of therapy. Once he or she actually meets with a therapist who is specifically trained to work with teenagers and who understands and appreciates LGBTQ issues, your teen may embrace, rather than reject, this support.
To increase the likelihood of a good fit, BPS offers an online therapist directory which will help you to determine what your teen’s specific issues are and to ensure a good match between you, your teenager and a BPS therapist in terms of personality, style and expertise.
Check out our free, online therapist directory, which will match you and your child with a therapist who has expertise working with teenagers and LGBTQ issues.
BPS therapist Jennifer Key, LCSW
helped create the content for this page. Jenny has been working with adolescents on LGBTQ issues since 2000. She practices traditional therapy methods, such as psychoanalysis and cognitive behavioral techniques, but has also found that many teenagers experience significant, positive change while interacting with animals. Jenny’s practice includes equine and animal therapies.