Health & Wellness / Life

7 Ways Parents Can Help Their LGBT Teens Stay Healthy

This week, as part of my volunteer work, I went on a field trip to a local PFLAG meeting. Wonderfully, the meeting was full of supportive and loving parents who wanted only the best for their LGBT children. They were working through their own individual issues, sure, but they cared deeply about their children and the young adults they were becoming.

The one thread, however, that I heard echoed again and again was, “How do I protect my LGBT child’s health when I don’t know anything about their individual health care needs?” Caring for the health of LGBT adolescents is unlike anything that most heterosexual parents have experienced before. There are, of course, health themes that apply to the youth of all persuasions, but parents of LGBT youth should take an active stance on protecting their children from the realities that their lives may present.

Moreover, LGBT kids may have different mental and physical bandwidth and could require special care when dealing with sensitive topics at home. While you can’t always keep your kids in the shadows to save them from bad things, you can get them prepared to face the world. You can provide them with all the necessary ammunition by ensuring their physical and mental well-being. For instance, you could look into products like a dim supplement for proper physical functioning, achieving a healthy immune system, and other important body fitness.

Here are some guidelines to caring for the health of your LGBT adolescent:

  • Find an LGBT-friendly pediatrician. No, really, do this. Your child may no longer be comfortable talking candidly about sexuality with the doctor who used to give them a lollipop after their shots. You may need to actively seek out a health care provider who is either LGBT him- or herself, or is actively LGBT-friendly and supportive. How will you know? Ask them! There are also online resources to find health care providers who will be warm and comfortable around these issues. For example, GLMA has a very extensive one that is searchable by zip code, type of health care provider needed, community partner agency, or myriad other filters. Keep in mind that the needs of your child might be different from others. Hence, it is your responsibility to treat them accordingly. You need to ensure that they do not feel prejudiced at any cost.
  • Seek out mental health services. Your child may have a need for mental health services offered by BetterHelp (you can use this link to get their coupon) and the like, even if they do not appear to be in active distress. This is not to say that there is anything wrong with your child mentally, just that they may need a supportive ear at a time when everything seems very confusing and new. Heck, you may need someone to talk to as well, even if you feel that you accept your child wholeheartedly. There are resources out there for that too, including GLMA and many others as well.
  • Just because they can’t get pregnant with a samesex partner doesn’t mean they don’t need to learn about safer sex. Get your child tested now for HIV and other STIs, and continue to follow-up test as you go. Talk openly with your child and emphasize sexual health, as in the promotion of healthy sexuality with the prevention of STIs. Talk to them about having respect for themselves and their bodies, and not allowing themselves to be pressured into sexual relationships before they are ready.
  • Vaccinate, vaccinate, vaccinate! Did you know that the HPV vaccine Gardasil is now recommended for boys and girls? Health care providers recommend that men who have sex with men, for example, are vaccinated against Hepatitis A & B, the flu (annually), and HPV, to start.

  • Monitor their online personas. Just as you would with your non-LGBT children, you must keep a vigilant eye on your LGBT child’s online presence. They are vulnerable to being lured into unsafe and unhealthy relationships or experiences by predatory adults. Pay attention to your child’s online activity, and keep an open conversation with them about how they present themselves to the world online. Violence against LGBT people is still a constant reality, including exploitation and child abuse.
  • Have ongoing conversations about substance use and abuse. LGBT folks are at a higher risk for substance abuse, which can be deadly. Talk to your children about the pressures they face and how they deal with stress, and about the importance of substances in moderation. If you find that your child does have a substance abuse problem, there are centers that assist LGBT people with addiction. Keep in mind that rehabilitation centres could help your kid immensely, without any doubt. Such facilities are known to be equipped with all the necessary tools and knowledgeable healthcare specialists. Hence, you can be assured that your kid is in safe hands and would be provided with medication assisted treatment to battle the problem of addiction effectively.

    However, if you or your child are not be entirely comfortable with visiting a local center for help, then you can pursue other options as well. It is not the end of everything to have a substance abuse problem, provided that it is remedied as soon as possible. To give your child some space and time to go through the process and heal, you can look for an international rehab that can admit them and give them the help they need.

  • Love your child unconditionally. The best predictor of positive health outcomes is a loving, supportive family and community. With open conversations, loving and trusting relationships free from judgment, and the empowerment only great self-confidence can give a young person, the health disparities faced by LGBT individuals will hopefully lessen over time. You, the parent of an LGBT youth, can be a part of that!

Looking for more parents like you? Check out Call Him Hunter for more on raising a transgender boy, and her Ally Moms group.

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