Peer and Professional Support
Family members and friends can be a great source of support, however, they may not have lived experience as a parent of a gender creative child or trans youth. Sometimes it can help to connect with other people who have walked a similar path. A lot of insight can be gained from sharing experiences. Connecting with other parents can help you feel less alone and be an opportunity to build lifelong friendships. As you gain experience and wisdom, involvement in peer supports can provide opportunities to give back by mentoring new parents, and be a part of advocacy and social change efforts.
Depending on where you live, there may or may not be a peer support group meeting nearby. We’ve provided some links below for organizations you may wish to connect with. There are also online networks (e.g. Facebook groups) for parents of gender creative and trans children that you may wish to join. Another place to connect with other families are conferences or workshops on topics related to trans youth. If you would like to start a parent support program in your community, please feel free to Contact Us for resources and support.
Many parents wonder when and if they need professional support for their child. There are two times when professional support is needed. First, if your child is in distress, and second, if they need gender-affirming medical care. Many children and youth thrive within supportive environments and have no need to see a health care provider for gender-related issues. However, there may be stressors within or outside the family that make it necessary to access professional supports.
It is important to note that not all health care providers have training in gender-affirming care. Providers who are not familiar with gender-affirming care may unintentionally offer advice or interventions that will not be helpful for your child. We recommend seeking out health care providers who are experienced in working with gender creative children and trans youth, or providers who are clearly willing to learn how to provide the best possible care. Health care providers are welcome to Contact Us for resources and information about training opportunities. You are also welcome to Contact Us for referrals to gender-affirming care providers.
All of us experience ups and downs and often our own resilience, family, and friends are enough to get us through. However, significant distress may not resolve on its own, and professional psychosocial support may be important for keeping your child safe. If your child is very anxious or depressed, harming themselves, or considering suicide, please help them access professional mental health support. If they ask to see a counsellor for things such as working through their gender exploration, navigating peer relationships, deciding about medical interventions, or dealing with social stigma, help them find a provider who is a good fit for them. Health care professionals can also assist by providing documentation related to support plans at school and in the community. Psychosocial support may be provided by many different professionals, including counsellors, social workers, psychologists, and psychiatrists.
Professional support may also be helpful if you, or another family member, are feeling distressed. Siblings may need support dealing with changes in the family, especially if they are feeling that their trans sibling is the focus of everyone’s attention. Parents may not always be in agreement about parenting decisions, and counselling can help bring them together so they can better support their child. You may be feeling overwhelmed – juggling the needs of your kids and partner, along with work and advocacy, all while learning what it means to parent a gender creative child or trans youth. Counselling can be a way to take care of yourself so you are ready to support others.
The second situation requiring professional support is if your child needs gender-affirming medical care, such as puberty blockers, hormone therapy, or surgery. Some children and youth will experience significant distress around the changes in their bodies associated with puberty. As puberty approaches, consider having conversations about expected body changes and medical interventions that are available. Find out where to go for professional support in case you need it. Medical professionals, such as family doctors, nurse practitioners, and endocrinologists, may be involved in providing gender affirming medical care for your child.
In the Social Affirmation and Transition section we will discuss ways to support your child to live in their authentic gender, without medical intervention.
The following resources can help you connect with other parents of gender creative children and trans youth. If you need a referral to a gender-affirming health care provider, you can Contact Us for assistance.