6 Things I Wish Parents Of Transgender Kids Knew When Helping Them Deal With Their Doctor
"Parents, when helping their children transition, need to make sure the doctors their children interact with are inclusive."
March 26, 2019 at 7:57 pm
Many individuals who identify within the umbrella of transgender in America have uncomfortable relationships with their doctors. These uncomfortable relationships are especially magnified for transgender youth aged 13–17. The Williams Institute at The University of California, Los Angeles Law School found that about 150,000 13 to 17-year-olds living in the United States identify as transgender. Issues ranging from improper care, silencing and mental health-related problems can arise from transgender youth not establishing good communication with doctors during healthcare interactions. However, there are several things parents can do to ensure better that their children have positive and meaningful healthcare interactions.
1. Listen to Your Children
No one else besides your child knows how or what they feel in their body. It is easy for parents to want to guide their children to become the person they are meant to be. However, the child ultimately guides themselves to become the man or woman they are supposed to be. For transgender children this is especially true. Parents must listen to the voices of their child when they speak about their bodies and express who they are meant to be. Do not invalidate their experience.
2. Get to Know Your Child Fully
Many parents feel that they know everything about their children. And sadly, for the most part, that could not be further from the truth. Transgender identifying children are often very complex persons to raise because many parents do not have the language or experience to do so. Many people, let alone parents, have never even met a transgender identifying person. Due to this, many false assumptions have come about regarding who these people are and are not. False assumptions create communication barriers between people and can significantly impede development of effective child-parent relationships if the parent does not take the time to get to know their child.
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3. Be an Advocate for Your Children
Being an advocate for your child is imperative. This advocacy matters more than people know. Being a transgender person and fully loving yourself can be a very isolating process. When a child makes the choice to fully live as the person they are meant to be, especially at a youthful age, it is vital that parents are not just advocates throughout their day-to-day lives but in the doctor's office as well. Many providers, since they do not know or interact with many transgender identifying persons, often unwittingly dismiss these patients' realities. Parents can help to make sure that these types of interactions do not occur by helping to reinforce their children’s perspectives and expectations in health care situations.
4. Make Sure Providers Are Inclusive
Parents, when helping their children transition, need to make sure the doctors their children interact with are inclusive. This does not just mean that the doctors are kind to your children. This means that they are aware and respectful of the realities experienced by these children. Parents should use correct pronouns, affirm their child's truth as a transgender person and help their child learn to be comfortable with their new gender. Doctors and healthcare providers have to be encouraged to be open and inclusive when working with transgender identifying children.
5. Make Sure Medical Spaces Are Inclusive
Parents must make sure that the healthcare spaces their children are interacting within are inclusive. There have to be processes in place to help transgender youth feel comfortable in the area, including bathrooms that are unisex, access to a variety of toys the children can play with and providing transgender kid pamphlets that patients can read. Making sure the child is comfortable in health care spaces is vital. Like life, many little things that we encounter matter.
6. Actively Participate in Your Child's Health In and Out of The Appointment
Finally, and in some cases most importantly, parents need to be active participants in their children's health in and out of the appointment. Constant active participation can genuinely enhance how a child transitions. It can create problems if children are stressed about their health because their parents are not actively concerned about their well-being. Problems can be avoided if parents actively participate. Ask questions, get to know the child’s doctor, pay attention to your child's verbal and nonverbal communication with practitioners and do your best to understand the treatments your child will be taking. Although these things seem commonplace, many transgender identifying persons at all ages do not have parents that are fully vested in their healthcare processes.
The parents of transgender identifying children can help youth become their true self. Please take these tips to heart. You never know, it could help you meet the happiest and healthiest child you have ever met — your child!