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Tips for Transitioning Parents with Children

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Tips for Transitioning Parents with Children

Post by Lorri Kat on Thu Jun 26, 2014 6:43 pm

Transition Tips for Parents


Since there are very few parenting resources available to transgender people, here are some best practices for transitioning parents.

Coming out to family is a major issue for transgender people and can be a difficult process. Please keep in mind that the entire family transitions, not just the transgender parent. Every member of the family needs time and support to adjust to the changes of a gender transition. The process of acceptance can take a while and is often ongoing. You can let your children know - through language and action - that, no matter what, you will still be their parent. As a parent, remember that your children come first and your transition comes second. Transition is an inherently self-focused process, as you align your body and appearance with your gender identity. The best way to be a responsible parent during
transition is to make your children a major priority throughout the process. Sometimes this
means that you have to compromise your ideal time frame for your transition in order to keep relationships with your family healthy. One should work with a transgender competent therapist to deal with your own issues before coming out to your kids. The more comfortable you are with your decision, the easier it will be to answer their questions and support them through your transition.

How you tell your children is critical. Try to avoid coming out around the holidays or major family events, when there is often extra pressure and expectations. You need to have the conversation in a safe space with plenty of time, where the conversation can't be overheard and where they will feel comfortable continuing the conversation. Knowing your kids and the way they process or react will help you decide just what to say. If you are nervous, you can write it down first or practice with a friend but realize the conversation can and will go ‘off script’. Come out to them in an age-appropriate way that fits with their personality. It’s best to keep your sentences short and concise to avoid overwhelming them with too much information (such as details about surgeries or hormones). People's responses will vary - some children will ask a million questions and others will have no reaction at all. Keep in mind that they may not want to talk about it right away or may just want some space to think things over. Regardless of their initial reaction, you can make yourself available for future conversations.

You have had a life time battling this and to come to your decision to transition, don’t expect them to in a matter of minutes, days, weeks or even months. Many times, this is a traumatic event, in that it changes the way your child sees the world. Throughout the transition, it’s important to acknowledge that this is a process for everyone and that feelings are okay. If possible, you and your spouse/partner (or ex-spouse/ex-partner) should create a united front to support your children through your transition, especially if you are separating or divorcing. Continue to be a responsible, caring parent and remind them that you will love them no matter what. You can also provide your children with transitional objects, such as a letter or card, something they can hold onto to remind them that you will always be their parent.
However, rejection and anger may be cast at you by them.  Where you see a transition to a new beginning they may see it as the loss of someone they love and as betrayal to them, which effects their social standings with school, friends, relatives and other parents.  Just as with any life changing situation the process of denial, anger, grief, tolerance then acceptance may take a long time for them. Tolerance along with acceptance may never be fulfilled. Children benefit when you involve them as much as possible. Try to give them advance notice about decisions you are making and how they may impact your appearance, your day-to-day lives, or your family. When possible, make some decisions together. Respect your children's wishes about how, when, and to whom they come out about you. We encourage you to give them a say about what to call you and how involved you will be in their public lives. If the decisions your child is making about these issues are hard for you, discuss your feelings with other adults, trans parents, or therapists, rather than expecting your child to take care of you. Your child may benefit from additional support throughout your transition. You can provide them with options of other supportive adults to talk with, such as a therapist or family friend.

Encourage them to connect with other people with LGBT parents - either locally or through the internet. As a parent, you can help them understand that there is so much difference in the world and everyone is explaining their own difference. Ultimately, that is the gift of having a transgender parent.

Visit www.colage.org to:
- Connect your children with other people with trans parents through our KOT email discussion list, Pen Pal program, or a local COLAGE chapter
- Request a copy of the official KOT Resource Guide
- Access resources for LGBTQ Parents and their children
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Lorri Kat
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