Parenting A Trans Teenager

teens holding hands

Parenting a teenager can be a challenge, to say the least, and can sometimes feel like an impossible feat. Adolescence is a time period in a young person’s life that is filled with curiosity, discovery, and inevitable physical, mental and emotional maturation. As a teenager goes through this process of learning their true sense of self and coming into their own, the child-parent relationship must too shift. Every teenager is different, as is every parent-child relationship. Regardless, every parent of a teen can expect to experience bouts of intense conflict, frustration, and angst while their child is maturing through their adolescence. Gender identity is integral to one’s sense of self and greatly informs the way one engages in the external world.  

Gender and Transgender

When a baby is born it does not know the difference between being a boy or a girl. Society norms influence and reinforce a young person’s understanding of gender through clothing choices, toy choices, color choices, and even acceptable forms of emotional expressions. In the past decade, these gender norms have begun to shift in America, as gender is no longer considered a simple binary term. Gender is currently viewed as more of a spectrum with people identifying and expressing varying degrees of both femininity and masculinity. Although transgender youth are young people that do not identify with the sex they were assigned at birth, they do identify along this spectrum.

Gender Dysphoria

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) includes gender dysphoria, solely for the purpose of providing a diagnostic term to enable access to care. Gender dysphoria is not a mental illness, however the disconnect that occurs between their assigned sex at birth and their internal sense of self can result in undue pain and distress. Hence, a person that identifies as trans and obtains a diagnosis of gender dysphoria will have access to insurance coverage for gender-affirming care. 

What You Can Do

Research has indicated that external gender-affirming behavior can greatly improve a teenager’s overall well-being and mental health. As a parent, it is essential to bear in mind that being transgender is not a phase, nor is it something your child will grow out of. Accepting your teen as they are, without trying to change them can be invaluable to their mental and emotional health. Below are several tips to help you support your trans teenager:

  • Advocate for your child: when encountered with trans phobia, stand up to it and request others respect your child’s identity!
  • School: learn what your child’s school can do to support and affirm your child and request they do it.
  • Pronouns and names: always use the name and pronoun that align with your child’s gender identity. 
  • Unconditional love: make sure your child knows they have your unconditional love. 

Transgender youth has been found to be at an increased risk of suicide when compared to non-transgender peers, due to being the target of bullying, rejection and/ or other victimization related to identifying as trans. Hence, supporting your child is of utmost importance.

For Information and Support 

Seeking help is never easy, but you are not alone! If you or someone you know is in need of mental health treatment, we strongly encourage you to reach out for help as quickly as possible. It is not uncommon for many mental health difficulties to impact a person for the long term. The earlier you seek support, the sooner you and your loved ones can return to happy, healthy and fulfilling lives.

Our admissions team is available to answer any general questions regarding mental health issues, treatment, and/or specific questions about the program at Pacific Teen Treatment and how we might be able to help your family. We can be reached by phone 24/7 at 800-531-5769. You can also contact us via email at info@pacifictrtc.com or through our contact form.