What to Do When: Understanding Non-Binary Gender Expression in Teens (and Adults too!)

Jun 20, 2019

Hi Julie,

My daughter came home the other day and told me she has never felt comfortable in her body and doesn’t really feel like a girl or a boy. She said she has been using they pronoun “they” with friends and also has chosen a gender-neutral name. I want to support her - err, them - but I don’t think I understand. Is this a phase? Is she/they transgender? Can you offer any insight?


As a psychotherapist who works with my gender non-conforming kiddos and as a parent of a non-binary child, I am so thrilled to see this question. For the first several years of your child’s life, you were certain you understood your child’s gender. When your child comes out as non-binary, it can be confusing. Even now, I am constantly learning, making mistakes, apologizing, and learning more. This is what an ally does. So, I have put together a list of the most common questions I have been asked as a psychotherapist and as a parent.

What does non-binary mean?

The...

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What To Do When: Understanding your LGBTQ teen

Jun 06, 2019

Hi Julie~ 

My daughter came home last week and said she thinks she is gay, or rather she said she is bi-sexual. I like to think I’m a fairly aware and open person, and if this is how she identifies then I want to support her. However, I’m at a complete and total loss of what to do. Right now, I left it at, “Okay, thanks for telling me. Can I have some time to think about it?”  What do I say? What do I need to do?  

—-

One out of four families has someone in it who identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. Even more may have kids who question their sexuality at various points.

I have worked with many lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning kids and their parents to come out and transition. I’ve witnessed the feelings parents experience and their responses when a child says, “Mom. Dad. I have something to tell you.” I’ve seen shock, denial, guilt, blame, grief, suspicion, religious...

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What to Do When™: Teens + End-of-School-Year Anxiety

May 31, 2019

Hi Julie~

My daughter was diagnosed with anxiety over the school year. She’s done a pretty good job of managing it, and I really thought that having a break from school would make her feel even better - especially after having some time to sleep and rest. However, now that school is out, she seems more tired and more anxious than ever. What can I do?

Anxiety is a universal emotion, and, on some level, everyone experiences anxiety. Many teens experience heightened levels of anxiety when there is a transition or change in their life. Anxiety is a normal stress reaction to perceived danger. The end of the school year marks a change for your daughter, so her anxiety may rise because change may feel like perceived danger. There are some ways that you can help her manage her anxiety and settle into summer break.

Validate Feelings

Validating your teen’s feelings can help them to feel understood. Let her know that you empathize with the feeling of anxiety. (“I hear that...

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What to Do When: Five Ways to Support Teens + Yourself in the Era of School Shootings

May 09, 2019

Hi Julie,

Yesterday the news struck. Another school shooting. I can’t handle it. I don’t know how to help my daughter when we hear about one. She is starting high school in the fall, and I don’t know if I can handle four more years of this fear. Help!

Thanks,

Annie


Hi Anne~

There are few events that strike fear in our hearts, our homes, and our communities like the senseless act of a school shooting. With images and snippets flashed on television and streamed over social media, it is natural to feel fearful about the safety of your child and their school. Beyond limiting exposure to media, it’s critical to know exactly what to do when tragedy strikes so you can support your teen and yourself.

  1. Lean into your support system and self-care habits. To assuage your teen’s anxieties, you need to first address your own. When you fly on an airplane, the flight attendant instructs you to put your oxygen mask on first, before helping others. The same is true...
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Do you listen to what your teen isn’t saying? (part 2 in a 3-part series)

Apr 24, 2019

[Continued from Part I. This is Part 2 in a 3-part series)

Part I: Are you Really Listening 

In part one of this series, we discussed that it is imperative for adults to do three things when speaking with teens:

(1)  Know that listening is an investment.

(2)  Be willing + open to listen

(3)  Pay attention to what they are saying AND doing.

I want to pause on that last point.

You must LISTEN to what they are doing.

Say wha? You must listen to what they aren’t saying, and you do that by paying attention to what they are doing, aka tuning into the non-verbal cues. Often an invitation to connect with your child doesn’t come with words, it comes through their actions and behavior, their body language and their facial expressions. Let’s break this down.

Actions and Behaviors: It isn’t what your teen says that always makes the impression; it’s what he does. Withdrawing, slamming doors, rolling eyes are all specific ways to send you a...

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Three Ways to Spark Your Teens Interest... and Yours, Too!

Jan 15, 2019

Today’s question is definitely one that hits close to home.

The question comes from Tracey, a mom of two: a 20-year-old daughter and a 14-year-old son. And she said:

“I feel like all my son does is sit around and do nothing after-school and on the weekends. I keep telling him that he needs to find an activity or a cause. If he doesn’t, I’m going to choose one for him. Is that okay, or should I just wait until he chooses his own interests?”

I’ve had many parents ask me this, and it’s a great question.

The short answer is yes and yes. Yes, you need to give him some space. And, yes, after you give him some space, you can give him some ideas.

Here’s why…

For both parents and kids, there’s so much pressure. As parents, we want to create this perfect childhood experience for our little ones. And as kids, they want to please, especially us. It doesn’t matter if you’re 80, 45, or 14 — that pressure’s...

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Three Simple Ways to Show Teens They Matter

Oct 04, 2018

Do you remember when you were younger and thought anything was possible? Perhaps Superman was your hero, and you were convinced that draping a towel over your shoulders and jumping off the sofa made you just like him. Or maybe you loved Dorothy Hamill (yes, I’m dating myself now) and promptly got a cute haircut and skated around your house with your shoebox-inspired carpet skates. Do you remember when the possibilities in life were limitless?

Do you also remember when you convinced yourself that nothing was possible? Perhaps your parents said there was no way you could ever fly (breaking your wrist didn't help the case, did it?), or your best friend laughed at your now-not-so-trendy haircut. Whatever the case, mountains may have seemed too high to scale, and confidence no longer fueled your youthful naïveté. Those feelings impacted your choices, and they are impacting your child's, too.

You see, today's youth have those same feelings of power and powerlessness....

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Parenting Teens Can Feel Hard: Musings on Raising Teens

Aug 31, 2018

Parenting teens and human natureStarting today with a big ol' parenting teens truth bomb.

(this will be a bit rambling but here goes...) 

Parenting teens is hard, and, then it’s easy. Then, it will be hard again. Then, it will be confusing. Really confusing before it becomes scary, exciting, frustrating, funny, weird, and wild. It will be sticky and shiny and dirty and colorful and lonely and social. Parenting teens is life. Your life and your teens.

Stop looking for the “right” way and choose the way that works for you and your family.  Parenting is not about being the best parent or having the best child. It’s about being the best parent for your kids. It’s about being the best you for you. Being what is best for your teen means letting go … of control, of guilt, of excuses, of perfection to parent the teen you have right now - not the perfect one seen on TV or online. You can aim for perfection every time but you will always end up human. Be human.

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