Rob Todaro, Press Secretary of the world’s largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ youth, The Trevor Project, reported alarming statistics from a recent Morning Consult Survey. One-third of LGBTQ young Americans felt they couldn’t be themselves at home with their parents for fear of rejection or worse being “kicked out” of the house.
Because of the Covoid Pandemic, many of the LGBTQ youth are forced to move back in with their parents after living freely on their own, perhaps at college or in an office. Once home, they feel as if they are “walking on eggshells” because they are not appreciated for their true selves. They feel closeted once again. They revert to pre-coming out tactics so they will be accepted. It’s a strain on their mental health.
Effects of Parental Rejection On LGBT Kids
Research in January Pediatrics (volume 123, No. 1) found that LGB adults who reported high rates of parental rejection in their teens were:
- 8.4 times more likely to report having attempted suicide
- 5.9 times more likely to report high levels of depression
- 3.4 times more likely to use illegal drugs
- 3.4 more likely to have unprotected sex than LGB peers who reported no or low levels of family rejection.
Family Acceptance Project
Director of the Family Acceptance Project, a research, education, intervention and policy project to help ethnically, racially and religiously diverse families support their LGBT children, Caitlin Ryan, Ph.D., affirms that “because families play such a critical role in child and adolescent development, it’s not surprising that adverse, punitive and traumatic reactions from parents and/or caregivers would have such a negative influence on young people’s risk behaviors and health status as young adults.” Dr. Ryan and her team have developed the first evidenced-informed family support model and a range of research-based material to help families support their LGBT children. Many of these publications are directly available in PDF form from the Family Acceptance Project (contact firstname.lastname@example.org).
From her research, Dr. Ryan, found that family acceptance helps buffer adolescents against suicidal behavior, depression and substance abuse. Young people report higher self-esteem, social support and overall health when their families are accepting of their sexual orientation.
What Can A Parent Do?
Even if parents are not accepting of their children’s identity, Ryan suggests that parents make these small, but important, steps that demonstrate more accepting behavior:
- Listen to them without interrupting or arguing.
- Ask them about their LGBT experience and how you can help them feel supported.
- Tell them you love them and show affection.
- Learn together about LGBT issues and family support organizations such as PFLAG, Gender Spectrum, Gender Odyssey or Strong Family Alliance.
- Look for role models for your child from within family or PFLAG.
- Get to know LGBTQ friends and romantic partners.
When Your Child Is Gay: What You Need To Know
For more detailed advice, see book, co-authored with a mother of a gay son and a psychiatrist, Jonathan L. Tobkes, M.D.