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Becoming an Ally: 6 Tips for Supporting LGBTQIA+ Children and Teens

The universal truth is this: All of us want to be loved and accepted for who we are. Here at KVC Missouri, our commitment to diversity, equality, inclusion and belonging is at the core of our mission and drives our efforts to ensure each child, family and community receives the best quality care possible. June is Pride Month, the perfect opportunity to celebrate the LGBTQIA+ community! As we all strive towards greater inclusion in our homes and communities, let’s explore six strategies and tips to care for LGBTQIA+ children and teens in your life.

1. Advocate for Inclusion and Empowerment of LGBTQIA+ Children

Inclusion is a basic human-level requirement: it affects our overall vitality, our mental health and our well-being. If you’ve ever experienced discrimination, social isolation or the pain of being “less than,” you understand the deeper effects that coincide with not feeling understood, valued and accepted.

Recent studies show that the suicidality rate among LGBTQIA+ youth has increased significantly over the last few years. About 45% of LGBTQIA+ youth seriously consider attempting suicide and, tragically, around 14% die by suicide. However, studies show that support, acceptance and inclusion from parents, caregivers, family members, peers and other close relationships lead to better mental health, enhanced self-acceptance and improved overall well-being. And you can make a difference by being an ally.

Here’s a hopeful statistic from the national LGBTQIA+ report: having even just ONE accepting adult can positively impact the life of an LGBTQIA+ young person and reduce the risk of suicide by 40 percent. Being an ally for LGBTQIA+ young people means standing up for and supporting individuals who are part of this community.

Allyship involves showing kindness, respect and understanding towards everyone, no matter who they are or who they love. Allies listen without judgment. They use inclusive language and educate themselves about the challenges LGBTQIA+ people may face. This support helps create a safe and accepting environment where everyone feels valued and loved.

You can start being an ally by first learning about different identities and experiences within the LGBTQIA+ community. Ask questions respectfully and be open to listening to others’ stories. Stand up against bullying and discrimination. Let the LGBTQIA+ children and teens in your life know you support them by using their correct names and pronouns. Celebrate diversity and speak out when you see or hear something unfair. By standing up for what is right, you help make the world a more welcoming place for everyone.

2. Know the Facts and Mental Health Risks

With the higher potential for discrimination, harassment and isolation, it’s no wonder that research shows LGBTQIA+ youth have an increased risk of struggling with their mental health. Because of the challenges they endure, this group has a much higher risk of developing anxiety, depression and other mental health issues. Many lack support and access to affirming healthcare, resulting in harmful coping methods and self-medication.

Not only do these factors cause harm at the moment, but they can also continue to cause harm into adulthood. When children feel free and safe to share who they are with the world, especially those closest to them, they are more likely to avoid many of the negative mental and behavioral health consequences that impact LGBTQIA+ youth today.

You can support LGBTQIA+ children and teens by knowing the facts:

  • Research suggests that among LGBTQIA+ youth, just one-third experience parental acceptance. An additional one-third experience parental rejection, and the final one-third chose not to disclose their LGBTQIA+ identity until becoming adults.
  • 56% of LGBTQIA+ young people who wanted mental health care in the past year were not able to get it.
  • 67% of LGBTQIA+ young people reported experiencing symptoms of anxiety, and 54% reported experiencing symptoms of depression.

3. Advocate For LGBTQIA+ Affirming Foster Parents (Or Consider Becoming One Yourself!)

2023 survey results found that less than 40% of non-binary youth considered their home to be gender-affirming. In certain cases, children might land in the child welfare system because of their family’s negative responses to their sexual orientation and gender identity. Some even choose to hide their true selves after entering a foster home for fear of rejection.

Mother and child at pride parade

LGBTQIA+ youth are over-represented within the child welfare system. Currently, about 1 in every 5 youth in the system identify as LGBTQIA+, making affirming foster parents more needed than ever. Affirming foster parents ensures that children feel welcomed and supported to live as their most authentic selves. There is a sense of safety created for children to learn and explore without feeling judged or threatened, and they’re appropriately guided through their development into adulthood. Check out this guide for creating an affirming home and discover how to become a foster parent here.

While anyone can be an affirming foster parent, representation also matters in foster care. Foster parents from the LGBTQIA+ community can support young people from a place of shared experience. Young people may feel more comfortable talking and sharing their thoughts and feelings with an LGBTQIA+ foster parent who has a more personal understanding and can honestly say, “I’ve been there.”

Non-discriminatory laws are now in place to allow qualified adults and families to participate in the caregiving experience. However, more interest is needed to match the growing demand for children needing affirming care. If you’re part of the LGBTQIA+ community, consider becoming a foster parent yourself!

4. Take Advantage of Online and Community Resources Available for LGBTQIA+ Youth and Families

Community organizations like KVC Missouri share similar goals when it comes to LGBTQIA+ youth. Their care, safety and overall well-being are of the utmost importance, and they deserve to grow up in loving and affirming homes. When utilizing a community resource like KVC Missouri, both parents and youth may receive the support they need to thrive, and working with your us is only one call away.

Even if you don’t think you’ll need these resources, you never know when you’ll meet someone who might. Take note of the many resources available:

Hotlines: 

  • GLBT National Youth Talkline: (800) 246-7743
  • The Trevor Helpline: (866) 488-7386

National and Online Resources: 

5. Understand Our DEI+B Commitment

At KVC Missouri, we are focused on honoring individuality while working collaboratively in diverse and inclusive groups to ensure healthy childhoods and healthy communities throughout the communities we serve. That’s the heart behind our organization’s commitment to DEI+B (diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging).

As an organization serving children and families, KVC Missouri is committed to treating every person with compassion and respect. We do not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, gender, gender expression, age, national origin, disability, marital status, sexual orientation or military status. Our commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging is grounded in the diverse representation of the children, adults and families we serve. Learn more about our commitment and how it’s woven through all aspects of the work we do and communities we serve.

6. Watch for Signs of Mental Health Struggles

While many children and teens face difficulties throughout adolescence, LGBTQIA+ children and teens often face an increase in social harassment and stigma from parents, peers and other adults. The results from this treatment can have devastating consequences, and research shows that youth may turn to substance abuse, practice unsafe sexual behavior, try to run away or decide that suicide is their only way out.

Mother comforting teen

It’s imperative for parents and caregivers to not only provide a safe, healthy and loving environment to help prevent negative outcomes but to also understand the dangers and risks associated with LGBTQIA+ youth and catch any warning signs of struggle when they appear.

As a parent, foster parent or ally, keep an eye out for any of the following signs that an LGBTQIA+ child or teen might be struggling with their mental health:

  • Drastic mood changes, such as increased anxiousness, sadness, irritability or anger
  • Talking about feeling hopeless, wanting to die or that there’s no point in life
  • Excessive crying or irritation
  • Unusual fatigue or reduced energy
  • Complaining of unexplained headaches, stomach aches or body pains
  • Changes in sleeping habits (including sleeping too little or too much) or eating habits (including eating too little or too much)
  • Difficulties paying attention and concentrating (including forgetfulness and distraction)
  • Withdrawing from family and/or friends, or withdrawing from activities they usually enjoy
  • Returning to outgrown behaviors (for example, thumb-sucking or bedwetting)
  • Self-harming or harming others
  • Use of alcohol, tobacco or other drugs
  • Poor school performance or avoiding schoolwork

If you notice any of these signs, seeking counseling can be a valuable step for LGBTQIA+ children and teens. Even if they’re not experiencing a mental health crisis, speaking with a professional can help. Explore the wide variety of services offered at KVC Missouri. There is hope, and at KVC Missouri, we can help.

June is Pride Month

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