Plea to transgender sons and daughters – allow your parents to be unhappy (for a while)
In my work with parents of children who go through the gender transition, I am still to meet the one who will not confirm wholeheartedly that they want their child to be happy (it is fair to say that those who think differently would not bother seeking help in how to best help their children, and therefore are not included in this plea).
The information about the child being transgender is almost always a shock. No matter how much we might know that our child is different, being told is a different matter. In many instances a parent has no idea what it means let alone how to deal with it. The way we are being told can be so different – from a text message to a sudden appearance in a whole new attire. Equally different can be expectations of how we should respond and what we should do – from “it’s not a big deal and I don’t want to talk about it now“, followed by months of silence, to – “I have just changed my name, my school and can I please have money for new wardrobe”, followed by demands to destroy pictures from the past from the phone screen saver and everywhere else.
The person going through gender transition has taken time to decide when and how they are going to manage their process. Telling their parents is in the ending chapter of that story, which for their parents is a very beginning. They have to actually take part in two processes simultaneously – their son’s or daughter’s where they are expected to be the support to their child, and their own where emotions run wild and there is no one to turn to. In effect parents often experience a lot of conflict and confusion:
“When I look at my child and see how much lighter, happier and calmer they are I feel so happy FOR THEM”.
“But then I remember my feelings - not wanting to let go of the past and memories, deep sadness about lost future which I knew and loved, fear about the future which to me is completely unknown… and I feel desperately unhappy and miserable. And then on top of that I feel guilty for being a bad parent not able to 'just be happy'".
Dear son or daughter.
There is nothing you can do about your parents’ unhappiness – it is a process of grief that has to run its course. They don’t grieve loss of you as a person, but loss of their dream of the future. In order to make space for the new dream the old one has to be buried and mourned, and that may take time.
What you can do to help is relieving them of the guilt. Trust their love. Allow them to be happy for you, whilst at the same time to not like what is happening to them and to deal with their sadness. Do not take it personally and do not allow it to spoil your happiness.
This is your job to stand by your choices and expect they may not be liked by your parents – as could be the choice of boyfriend or career - as long as they accept it and offer support you need. Seeing you happy and fulfilled with your path is the best way to help your parents to launch into dreaming a new dream about the future and feeling “just happy” again.
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About Anna Jezuita
Anna is a BACP accredited counsellor providing a range of services in Central London, South West London, Camden and via Skype.
She uses person centred approach, and CBT based acceptance and commitment therapy and mindfulness based cognitive therapy to help with a range of issues from depression, addiction, self-esteem to relationship troubles.… Read more
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