Many rainbow rangatahi fear being pushed away or isolated by members of their whānau for who they are. This can cause many to hide their authentic selves for fear of not being accepted to the detriment of their wellbeing. By showing unconditional love to your child, you can help keep them safe and give them space to grow into healthy adults. It’s normal and natural to want the best for your child, and you might have worries about the difficulties they’ll face having diverse gender or sexualities. However, it’s important to recognise how your own fears and beliefs can impact them. For rangatahi to be able to express themselves healthily and fully, they need to feel confident your love and support isn’t going to disappear overnight. Clear and careful communication of your love and support of them and their journey is key to this.
Things to consider:
- Avoid ‘conditional’ or leading statements when expressing love - avoiding statements like ‘I wouldn’t know what to do if…’ or ‘You’re not…., are you?’ will help to build trust between you and your child so they feel safe to talk to you openly
- It is important to recognise a young person's identity may not align with your personal belief, and your love needs to be heard and be reassured as you navigate how both these identities fit together
- Choose one or two positive affirmations to say to your child on a daily basis - teaching your child phrases to repeat to themselves like ‘I am surrounded by love’ or ‘I am good’ can provide comfort to them, and help them believe and trust that your love for them has no conditions.
- Try to keep any negative judgements you might have to yourself - it can be hard to be positive or neutral when you’re feeling fearful for your child. But by keeping your own fears to yourself you can protect your child from them. You might not be able to control or understand what they’re going through, but with the right amount of care you can control how safe they feel speaking to you about it.
- Educate yourself - if you’re not familiar with it, learning about the rainbow community can be overwhelming. Taking time to do some research online can help you understand the isolating effects of feeling like you’re different and that you stand out.
- Try to think about your love as an action, not a feeling - to love unconditionally is to act with love under all conditions. Think about how you speak and act towards your child, and whether or not it’s being influenced by your own expectations.
- Recognise and reflect on your expectations - taking a moment to analyse your expectations of who your child is, or who they will become, can allow you to see things from their perspective a little more, and whether or not they might think they have to hide things from you.
- Take space for yourself to navigate and work through your concerns and fears outside of your interactions with your young person, this could be with other parents in similar family dynamics or with a professional.
Some questions to ask yourself:
- Do I have a preconceived idea of who my child is and who they will become? Is this idea reasonable? Does it place any pressure on them to ‘be’ a certain way over another? What can I do to change that?
- How can I balance my own beliefs and experiences, while still supporting the needs of the young person in my care?
- How might expressing my own fears to my child around their identity be damaging to them?
- Do I currently express my love unconditionally? What might change if I were to express my love differently, in a way that offers more space for self-expression?
- Does my child feel they can be honest with me about who they are?
- Do I have someone who I can discuss my fears and coping strategies with? If not, where can I look to find this support?