what would you do....

...if your adolescent child told you they were lesbian, gay, transgender or bisexual (LGTB) ???

While many parents would react in various ways, there are potential health implications for youth and young adults depending upon HOW their families behave toward them once they confide in at least one parent about their sexual orientation.

The link below in HealthDay describes a study which demonstrates that if the family expresses a positive attitude toward the adolescent there is less risk of depression,  suicide and substance abuse in the early twenties, as well as improvement in genral health, well-being and self esteem.  http://consumer.healthday.com/Article.asp?AID=646940

Recent media attention to bullying in schools or other hateful behavior toward an LGTB adolescent has focused adults on identifying and preventing such behavior. Parents need to look also within the family environment to find a way to offer acceptance to their children, and seek outside assistance when necessary, especially when strong religious or personal beliefs are in conflict with a desire to provide love and acceptance of their child. You can read the original article from the Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Nursing here.

This is as much a health issue as paying attention to other determinants of future well-being, such as diet, exercise, school attendance, and is another topic parents may choose to discuss with the child's primary care provider. If the primary care provider is uncomfortable with the topic, expert advice may be sought from a mental health provider, religious leader, or school counselor.

Additional information on lesbian, gay and bisexual youth is available here

Recent Comments

Thanks for your comment, and for sharing such a personal experience. I am glad your family was able to provide the support and love you needed.

The younger of my two older brothers did not have the benefit of being accepted by his (my) family. I was too young to really understand at the time (he is 15 years older than I am) but I know that when he came out to my parents, there was very little acceptance by my father. I think my mom was mostly confused, but my dad was angry. This was in the late 1950's. My brother left home and has been more or less estranged from the rest of us since. My father died suddenly and unexpectedly in 1963, and the chance for reconciliation between them was lost. No matter what I did as I grew older, when I became a teen or even as an adult, has been able to heal the wounds that our family discord created. We are on friendly terms, but I know he will never feel comfortable with me, simply because of the estrangement that occured at an early age. My mom died many years ago, and I thought that might bring us closer together, but after so long, I guess its just too hard. When our only other brother died suddenly from cancer in September, my other brother couldn't make it back east to see him, nor did he attend the funeral. Time does not necessary heal all wounds. And just think, all of this emotional distress could have been prevented if my parents had understood the implications of their behavior toward my brother when he was a teenager.

The youngest of my three daughters is a Straight Ally and has been very active in GLSEN since middle school, which started when she first heard about and participated in the Day of Silence. She has taken leadership roles in a number of GLTB-support organizations in college, and has helped to educate me further about some of the issues many of us don't think about on a day-to-day basis. I am grateful to her for that, and very proud that this generation can be more accepting, understanding and supportive of diversity than ever before. Unfortunately, social media has also made it possible to be more hateful and meanspirited as well.

I hope all our readers will commit to doing the right thing for our young peoples' health and well-being.

I remember when I was in high school (this was 1998 or 99) and got word that I'd received a scholarship from the Roanoke chapter of PFLAG (Parents, Families, & Friends of Lesbians and Gays). I was fully out and open at school, but that was not the case at home.

I knew I had to come out to my parents because in a city the size of Roanoke, they would find out about the scholarship sooner or later. I must've spent a week or more going over how I should tell them, and what I should say. I went so far as to ask friends if I could stay at their houses if things went badly.

At 17, planning an escape route and wondering if I was going to be kicked out of where I lived was terrifying.

But in the end, it was fine. Mom knew already. And dad was proud of me for getting the scholarship.

Thank you for sharing on this topic.

Thank you for sharing this even if from 2010, this is still relevant and even more so now. I tried to follow the links, but they only go to the Peds Conference. What resources are available in Roanoke for dealing with children who may be gay? or does Carilion provide? Thank you.

Rebecca, I am sorry that the links don't seem to be working. 
Our pediatric endocrine clinic sees patients who require hormone therapy. Generally these children/adolescents are referred by their primary care doctor. The specific resources would vary according to the child's age and specific situation. 

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About Dr. Ackerman

Alice Ackerman, MD, MBA, FAAP, FCCM is the Chair of the Department of Pediatrics at Carilion Clinic and Professor and Founding Chair of Pediatrics at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine. Dr. Ackerman is recognized nationally as an expert in pediatric critical care.

She has been at Carilion Clinic since June of 2007. Her primary goals are to enhance the health care of children in the Roanoke Valley and Southwest Virginia, and is actively working to do this both as physician in chief of the children's hospital, as well as through involvement with many state-wide initiatives.

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