Childhood and adolescence are filled with self-discovery, transformation, and increasing independence — and navigating those changes can be challenging for both children and parents. For caregivers of youth who identify as LGBTQIA+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning, Intersex, Asexual, and other sexual and gender identities), understanding how to support a child’s growth and well-being is especially critical.
According to The Trevor Project’s 2022 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health, 73% of LGBTQ youth reported experiencing symptoms of anxiety; 45% percent had seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year. Only 37% identified home as an LGBTQ-affirming space.
“One of the greatest indicators for good health outcomes in LGBTQIA+ youth is having affirming spaces, particularly if that place is home,” says Dr. Hugh Love Jr., a psychologist at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center who specializes in LGBTQIA+ and trans-affirmative care. “Having a positive environment can help them gain a strong sense of self and know that they have someone to help navigate the difficult aspects of their life.”
The statistics show that support at home makes a remarkable difference. The same Trevor Project survey also found that LGBTQ youth who felt high social support from their family reported attempting suicide at less than half the rate of those who felt low or moderate social support.
Dr. Love, who is also an assistant clinical professor of medical psychology at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, shares his advice on how parents of LGBTQIA+ youth can create that safe space for their child, including ways to keep communication lines open.