When you first learn your child is transgender, it’s normal to feel many different emotions. You may experience grief, sadness, fear, guilt, worry, anger, anxiety, and denial, to name a few. You might even feel some of those emotions at the same time. They are all normal reactions to the overwhelming experience of learning new information about your child that doesn’t match what you previously believed to be true. It’s normal to feel emotional after your child comes out as transgender.
It’s what you do with those emotions that is important.
You’re going to want to be sure that you are processing your emotions in a healthy way. This can look like first acknowledging your feelings and accepting them. We can’t process emotions that we are in denial about. Second, it helps to allow yourself to feel your emotions fully. Stuffing down feelings, or repression, can lead to physical and mental health symptoms such as depression, poor sleep, anxiety, digestive distress, and difficulty managing stress. Next, you’re going to want to name what you are feeling. If you need help with this step, check out this Feeling Wheel from the Gottman Institute. You start in the middle with the most basic feelings and move out toward the edge in that category until you find the one that sounds correct. The last step is acceptance of your feelings. You don’t have to like how you feel to accept it. Remember, feelings aren’t good or bad; they are neutral. Feelings tell us information about ourselves that help us to move forward, make decisions, or learn something about ourselves.
Here are some questions you can ask yourself when you are feeling emotional:
- What am I feeling right now?
- What happened to make me feel this way?
- Does the situation have a different explanation that makes sense?
- What do I want to do with these feelings?
- Is there a better way of coping with these feelings?
Some ways to process your emotions in a healthy way are through journaling, meditation, exercise, spending time in nature, doing something creative, or playing with a pet. If you are having difficulty managing your emotions, it’s also beneficial to seek the help of a trained professional.
It’s critical that you process your emotions away from your child.
No matter how you feel, your child needs your love and support after they come out as transgender. This looks like making your best effort to use their correct name and pronouns and being there for them in whatever way they need you. If using a new name makes you sad, that’s okay. Practice using it when your child is not around with someone you can trust until you get it correct. Talk to that person about how you feel about using the new name. Let yourself be emotional about it. When you are with your child, use their name and if you slip up, correct yourself and move on. Don’t tell your child it’s too hard and why you are struggling or sad. They don’t need to bear the burden of your sadness.
Many things during the first year, especially the first few months after your child comes out, will be hard. Using a new name and pronouns for your child. Shopping for new clothes in a different department of the store. Buying new toys or bedding for your child. Having conversations with your child’s school, sports coaches, or other important adults. Navigating sleepovers and friendships. Figuring out what to do about the holidays.
You will continue to feel emotional about your child being transgender, and that’s okay. Just don’t burden your child with those emotions.
You can’t support your child if you aren’t supporting yourself, so be sure you are processing your emotions in a healthy way as you continue along your journey.