Irwin Krieger, a Connecticut Psychotherapist and gender specialist has written a 75 page guide for parents of trans teens (2011, Genderwise Press, New Haven, CT. ISBN: 069201229X).
The book provides a good “lay of the land” for parents who have little information about what it means to have a transgender child. It includes a glossary of terms, a primer on gender and sexuality, and a fairly detailed roadmap for what to expect should the teen decide to transition.
It is particularly strong in articulating the tensions that can arise between an impatient teen and a cautious parent who is trying to “come up to speed”. Other helpful areas are sample letters to extended family members explaining the situation, thoughts on what to expect when a teen transitions at school and a discussion of the typical fears a parent may have.
There are few minor points with which I took issue – namely a tendency (not just here but in a good deal of transgender literature) to paint the (FTM) female to male transgender child’s experience as somehow “easier” and Krieger’s describing a teen’s coming out as gay as often being a “transitional identity” to what may later be a “straight” identity. This may overlook the strong “queer” identity that many young people lay claim to before, during and even after transition.
These points aside, “Helping Your Transgender Teen” is sure to do just that for a good many parents who will be reassured and educated by this book.
Also in Trans Mental Health News here are some tips on:
Keep the long term goal in mind in all communications
The long term goal is maintaining a relationship with your child.
Allow yourself time to process your feelings.
There can be pressure for immediate acceptance.
You are entitled to all your feelings about the situation.
Your child has had much more time to think about this and accept it than you have.
Speaking: If you’re too angry or upset take a 20 min. break. Try to avoid blaming, ultimatums, attacking, insults, large proclamations or hurtful speech. Say what you feel clearly, don’t assume people know. (people are not mind readers). Say what you feel rather than acting it out, ex: “I’m confused and angry…”
Say where you are, example: “I don’t completely understand it but I’m listening and working on it”
Don’t shut down communications or avoid your child
This is often the largest fear.
Let it happen when you’re ready.
Let others have their own feelings and reactions about it, don’t try and dictate.
Educate yourself about transgenderism.
This is an opportunity for a more authentic relationship with your child.