This week’s blog is written by Alyssa Leonard, LCSW. I hope you find it thought compelling. Please feel free to share it with others who may have a transgender child.


When faced with the realization that their child may be transgender, parents experience a vast range of emotions and a million questions. It is normal to feel shock, discomfort and anxiety when presented with the unknown.

There is no way to fully prepare yourself for the trials you may face in trying to support either the questioning child or the transgender child. As your child struggles with sexual identification, it is important to accept that your child may not be the person you envisioned. Like it or not, we all have certain expectations of who want our loved ones to be; letting go of those expectations is a challenge for anyone. For you, as a parent of a transgender child, letting go of that expectation can feel daunting. However, once you can surrender those preconceived ideas, it becomes easier to focus on your child’s needs. The first challenge for every parent is to accept and support the uniqueness of each child as they struggle to adapt and understand their place in the world. In order for that to happen, the child needs to feel confident and emotionally secure.

As adults many of us are aware of what it is like to try to blend in; we camouflage ourselves within a certain look or lifestyle. When we remember back to our childhood, trying to fit in and be accepted by peers was extremely important. For some parents just learning about their child’s true sexual identity can reignite those feelings of longing to fit in. This vulnerability can result in each family member experiencing varied reactions and even resistance to the child’s needs. As the adults and siblings each confront their own feelings around the issue, it is imperative to not lose sight that this is your child’s struggle and being present for that journey is what each family member needs to do. It can be overwhelming to remain compassionate and loving during this time. To support you in your journey and to better be there for your child, seek support from professionals educated on this topic.

Try to see this challenge as taking a walk with your child. Let your child determine the pace. Walking side by side with your child, you can practice good communication and work together as a team. This is not an issue that will be resolved in a brief period. Not unlike drugs or sex, many uncomfortable conversations need to take place. By staying open to that reality, your child will feel free to ask questions and when those questions come, it may feel easier to simply answer,” not now” or “I am busy”. However, by making yourself available, your child will feel heard. Don’t worry if you don’t have all the answers (you won’t), you can simply say,” I don’t know, but I will help you find out”. Your child doesn’t need for you to be an expert, your child simply needs to be heard and loved. Simultaneously, you will be exploring your own feelings ; again professional guidance can be invaluable. When you are grounded, your child will feel safe.

Here are some suggestions for taking the walk together:

  • Consider your child’s age and give your child age-appropriate support.
  • Be mindful not to be judgmental. Your child is looking to be loved and supported.
  • Affirm the value of their talking openly with you. Listen carefully to your child. Let them take the lead.
  • Allow your child to communicate on this topic without dismissing or changing the subject.
  • Look for signs of distress and depression. Is your child withdrawn? Is your child expressing sadness? If so seek support from a mental health professional (See reference for symptoms of depression in children).
  • Educate yourself by talking with professionals, seeking support groups and using the internet. Be selective as to your resources; there are many quality on-line sites, but there is also much misinformation. (See list of suggested videos, resources below).
  • Be open to your child’s desire to experiment regarding appearance. These include hair style and clothing.
  • Speak with the school social worker, teachers, and nurses about your child, so as a community, you can work together to offer support and acceptance. With an older child, inform them of your decision to speak to the school officials. Your child might want to be present for those discussions.
  • Consult with your child’s Pediatrician.
  • Address any bullying or stigma related challenges assertively and openly.
  • Know that you are not alone. May people are facing similar experiences with their children.

Once the child shares his/her feelings, starts identifying with the true gender and feels familial acceptance, then most likely s/he will be more relaxed and happy. As is true for all of us, living our most authentic life brings great joy and inner contentment.


Copyright 2018. Alyssa Leonard is a Clinical Social Worker located in Tucson, Arizona. Ms. Leonard has over 20 years of work experience with culturally diverse populations including children, families and adults. For the past nine years, her concentration has been on serious mental illness, specifically working with Veterans and their families. She is trained in various modalities including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. As a compassionate, culturally diverse therapist, she has an interest in working with gender dysphoria.



www.webmd.com “Childhood Depression.”, WebMD Medical Reference/Reviewed by D. Brennam, MD 7/21/16 (Signs of depression in children)

Your Child is Transgender, and Its Going to be Okay., Connor O’Keefe,  9/14/15

To Parents Who May Have a Transgender Child., Skylarkeleven, 1/13/15

Transgender Kids (LGBT Documentary). , Real Stories, 11/22/16

Exclusive:  A Transgender Child Fights to be Recognized as a Girl., Katie Couric, 2/26/13

Life as a 5-Year-Old Transgender Child-NBC Nightly News. , NBC News, 3/22/15

Transgender Children Talk About Being Raised by Their Families/Them., Them, 12/21/17

TheTrevorProject.OrgLGBTQ Youth. , 24/7 Crisis Hotline Number 1-866-488-7386







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