07-13-2023 02:10 PM - last edited on 07-13-2023 04:15 PM by Stormy-RO
Please treat me with kindness and care, as I don't know how to say this properly.
My son (16) was not well mentally last year, self harming and just being lost and feeling uncared for (that hurt to hear). COVID lockdowns were awful for his mental health over years. He said yesterday he wishes he was a girl. My problem is that I don't think he is trans but it is massively unacceptable to even think that let alone say it. You see, his best friend came out as trans about 18m ago (mtf) and this is really his only close friend (who is a totally person we like very much). I think my son is unhappy with himself in many ways and is a bit lost, seeking to learn who he is - things that are really common in teenagers. I know his friend has said that she feels much better now living as a girl and has specifically said to my son that this solve things for him.
There's never been any previous mention of discomfort with gender/body/identity pre-puberty and I just don't know that this is right for him. I feel he does need further mental health support (we went to counselling last year as a family) but I worry that he's almost 'latched on' to a solution presented by someone who he respects and likes very much. It is so socially unacceptable to even question if someone is trans or not so there's no wayI could say this in real life. I just don't know what to think, or do, or say.
07-13-2023 04:45 PM
Hi @vicchick welcome to the forums. Thank you for reaching out, this sounds like a difficult situation to be in for both yourself and your teen and it's clear that you are coming from a place of concern. There seem to be a lot of different circumstances related to your teen's mental health, gender identity and friendships and it's understandable that it's difficult to navigate them all.
You mentioned a history of self-harm from your teen, do they have any supports currently, such as a GP, psychologist or school counsellor? I also wanted to recommend the ReachOut Youth Forums which would allow them to get in touch with peer support if they wanted.
Addressing the gender identity of your teen is a confusing situation and it sounds like you don't know if this feels right. How have the conversations with your teen about this topic been going? We have an article about having difficult conversations with your teen which might provide some suggestions for you. There are also some great resources online on this topic. Transhub has information and guidance for families and carers of trans teenagers. In addition, QLife offers anonymous call and webchat peer support and referral services for Australians of all ages to talk about gender, sexuality and identity.
We'll also be sending you an email to check in, so please look out for that.
08-09-2023 07:55 PM
Hi vicchick ,
Thank you for writing into the forum and being so open about what's going on for you, your son and his friend. I don't know how others find parenting but for us it's been full of surprises both good and bad and trying to get our heads around things. We have a 19 year old son and a 17 year old daughter. Both of them were hit hard by the lockdowns at school and both have probably quite serious trouble with anxiety at times. Last week our daughter dropped her ATAR subjects because it was too hard to catch up and her anxiety was through the roof. She's wanting to be a professional dancer and doing well down that path but for academic soul like myself, it's been challenging getting my head around that and having to explain things to my parents.
Gender orientation seems to have become much more of a question mark these days. There's much more acceptance that if you don't relate to your physical gender, that you can explore other avenues. However, the traits that we transitionally see as "male" or "female" are much more complex or mixed up so we have guys who are sensitive, caring, emotional and women who are aggressive, competitive, physically strong for example. Perhaps there's more of a continuum. Maybe by saying he wishes he was a girl, it could mean a range of things. Maybe he'd like to wear dresses and makeup sometimes and have fancy hair or at least try that. Women wear traditionally male clothes everyday but men don't have the same freedom. \
Personally, I have never been a girly girl and I had a brother and my dad had 5 brothers and I thought it was much more interesting being a boy as a young child than wearing fancy clothes and not being allowed to run around and get dirty. These days I see myself more as creative and that probably defines me more.
I don't think it's easy for young people to find their way into their adult shoes and I am still evolving. I guess the challenge is trying support our kids when their choices are confronting and keeping communication open is really important but difficult. Reachout mentions the benefit of having a chat in the car where there isn't direct eye contact and it's less confrontational.
BTW we have a few friends we can talk to about our more challenging parenting moments and that really help and I come here.
Hope this helps and all the best,
08-10-2023 10:57 AM
08-10-2023 01:01 PM - last edited on 08-10-2023 02:03 PM by Stormy-RO
Sorry to here your son is also doing it tough. He is not alone and lock down certain affected a lot of people's mental health and their aspirations. My son has had serious immobilising anxiety and progress has been slow, stressful but he's consolidating and moving forward and is now in a very different place. Our son is on the spectrum and on the NDIS and I also have acute health issues which have impacted him since he was very young and that's had a big impact and I was very vulnerable with covid which didn't help.
What I see as the key is that you have this person say who is lying face down say in bed and probably with the door closed. How do you get this person to say get up and go to school? Breaking it down into small steps but these steps are smaller micro steps. One of the things we were working towards with our son was to get him onto his Ps but he'd failed his L test the first time and was paralysed. He goes to a youth group at our church and the youth worker offered him a tub of Baskin Robbins ice cream if he booked in his L test. This was just post lock down and we had to drive him 1.5 hours to where he could get a booking but he did it and he didn't seem to pick up or mind that he was being in effect manipulated. So he passes the L test but then wouldn't drive. I speak to the OT who he wasn't speaking to btw. He said some people get anxious just sitting in the car and putting the key in the ignition. I am am anxious driver but that's never bothered me but I took it onboard and when he asked me for $20.00 I said I'd give it to him if he sat in the car and turned on the ignition. He was off in a flash. Again didn't object. A few of the youth leaders from church took him driving round local carparks before he'd go driving with us. Finally, he'd go out with us. A year or so later, he almost has his 120 hours up. He asked to drive us around another area. I initially said no because I hadn't been for probably 20 years but we drove over and he was good and off we went but we left about 9.00pm when the traffic was low. All good. I was so proud of him.
I hope you find his story encouraging and I think it illustrates just how small these steps at the start might need to be but they add up and take off and suddenly they're in a place you thought was impossible.
Much of this line of thought is outlined in a book by James Clear called "Atomic Habits". I am currently reading it myself and it's fantastic. He has a few strategies for making progress and much of that is based on repeated action.
Take care and best wishes,
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