Mental health & substance use
Additional risk factors
Protecting your LGBTQ+ child
Because your child may face additional pressures and challenges, demonstrating your love, acceptance and support is essential to reducing their substance use and addiction risk. Research shows that family support and acceptance can help significantly decrease an LGBTQ+ adolescent’s likelihood of substance use and improve their mental health. This means actively affirming their identity rather than merely tolerating it.
Ways to actively support your LGBTQ+ child and minimize their risk of substance use include:
Learn about and get involved with the LGBTQ+ community
You can demonstrate support by encouraging your child to get involved in LGBTQ+ community activities, and by getting involved yourself. Helping your child find community social activities to overcome isolation and stigma that don’t involve substances can help prevent or stop their substance use.
Explore the unique issues faced by LGBTQ+ youth and communicate openly with your child about these topics. Learn and use affirming, respectful language when referring to your child and other members of the LGBTQ+ community, and help to normalize this show of support in your larger family and community.
Help your child access additional support
Many behavioral health care providers specialize in or have professional experience with issues unique to LGBTQ+ youth. It can benefit your child to receive support from these providers. Affirmation-based therapy, which consists of supporting LGBTQ+ individuals and increasing their confidence, can improve mental health. Engaging in community and school programs that address specific LGBTQ+ risk factors can also help prevent substance use.
Get support for you and your family
Personal support can better equip you to care for your child and keep them safe. Working with a support group specifically for parents of LGBTQ+ youth or seeking family or individual therapy can be helpful for you and your child’s mental health. You can learn more about the community, how your behaviors can affect your child and talk about your thoughts and feelings. For many parents, this may include concerns about how they will be treated in society and how best to support them with other family members, friends and the community at large.
Use and share correct pronouns
It has become more common for people to introduce themselves with their personal gender pronouns (e.g., she/her, he/him, they/them) – for example, in group settings or in their email signature. Not everyone has a gender identity that we perceive to match their gender appearance. Many individuals do not fall within the gender binary at all. Making a conscious effort to express your pronouns to others – and not assume another’s pronouns – is a simple way to normalize the full range of gender identity. It also helps ensure that all individuals feel included and affirmed regardless of gender.
Have open and on-going conversations
On-going conversations will help you recognize when they need support and how best to help. Consider asking these questions:
- What name/pronouns would you like me to use?
- What safety concerns do you have? What can I do to help?
- If someone asks me about your gender identity, expression or sexual orientation, how would you like me to respond?
- How do you feel that your friends and others are supporting you? What can I do to help?
Overall, you want the message to be that they are loved for who they are and they can come to you at any time to discuss their concerns.
Where to find support
Many organizations and programs can help support you and your child with everything from connecting to other families who share your experiences to finding helpful information to seeking professional help: