Respect Equality

How parents can best support LGBTQ+ kids this Pride Month

“The role that parents and caregivers play to support their children is as crucial as ever.”
(Maskot via Getty Images)

Story at a glance

  • Supportive actions taken by the parents and caregivers of LGBTQ+ children can lower their risk of suicide by more than 40 percent, according to new research from The Trevor Project.

  • Most LGBTQ+ youth report feeling affirmed and supported when their parents or guardians are kind to their partners or close friends.

  • LGBTQ+ youth also feel supported when their gender expression is accepted and their parents educate themselves about LGBTQ+ figures and issues.

Supportive actions taken by the parents and caregivers of LGBTQ+ youth can have a massive effect on their children’s mental health, new research shows, dramatically lowering the risk of suicide among LGBTQ+ young people overall.

According to a research brief released this week by the LGBTQ+ youth suicide prevention and crisis intervention group The Trevor Project, most cisgender LGBQ+ young people (75 percent) feel accepted when their parents or caregivers welcome their partners or friends into their lives.

Close to 70 percent of cisgender LGBQ+ youth feel affirmed when their parents or guardians have respectful conversations with them about their identity, according to the report, and 52 percent feel supported when their caregivers are accepting of their gender expression by helping them buy new clothes or get a new hairstyle.

More than 40 percent of cisgender LGBQ+ youth say supportive actions taken by their parents have included educating themselves about LGBTQ+ people and culture and openly discussing LGBTQ+ issues with them.

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Like cisgender LGBQ+ youth, most transgender, nonbinary and gender-questioning young people (69 percent) also feel most supported when their parents or caregivers are kind to their partners or close friends. 

According to The Trevor Project, transgender, nonbinary and gender-questioning youth also feel affirmed when their parents or guardians respect their LGBTQ+ identity (57 percent), support their gender expression (51 percent), use their name and pronouns correctly (40 percent) and educate themselves about LGBTQ+ issues and figures (40 percent).

Across the gender spectrum, supportive actions taken by the parents of LGBTQ+ children are associated with a dramatic decline in the rate of attempted suicide among LGBTQ+ youth.

For instance, open conversations between children and their parents about their LGBTQ+ identity has been associated with more than 40 percent lower odds of a past-year suicide attempt among all LGBTQ+ youth, according to The Trevor Project.

“These findings underscore that relatively simple, supportive actions taken by parents and caregivers can contribute to lower suicide risk among LGBTQ young people,” Jonah DeChants, a research scientist at The Trevor Project, said in a statement.

“Especially as we see lawmakers in states across the country pass laws that target this group of young people that already faces disproportionate rates of depression, bullying, and suicide risk compared to their peers, the role that parents and caregivers play to support their children is as crucial as ever,” he said.

In this year alone, lawmakers across the country have introduced hundreds of bills that advocacy groups including The Trevor Project and the Human Rights Campaign say target LGBTQ+ people through their attempts to remove queer voices from schools, restrict access to gender-affirming care and bar transgender athletes from playing on sports teams that match their gender identity.

Several of those measures — including nine transgender athlete bans — have already become law. Most similar legislation has failed to advance, but previous research from The Trevor Project has found that the very introduction of bills that check the rights of LGBTQ+ people, particularly the rights of transgender and nonbinary youth, still have consequences.

A January report found that two-thirds of LGBTQ+ youth believe recent debates about proposed state laws to restrict the rights of transgender people have negatively affected their mental health.

But support from parents and caregivers can help mitigate that. According to The Trevor Project’s 2022 national mental health survey, LGBTQ+ youth who felt “high social support” from family members reported attempting suicide at less than half the rate of those who felt low or moderate support.

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