Suggestions for parents of gifted-GLBTQ youth/update on MN Safe Schools

I tend to shy away from the word “advice.” Instead, I make “suggestions” to parents who are wondering what they can do to be good advocates for their kids. Some of these function nicely for teachers, administrators, and coaches as well.

The following is an excerpt from an article I was invited to write for2e: Twice-Exceptional Newsletter, for its July 2014 edition. This is copyrighted material, for whatever that’s worth!

Some Suggestions

My first suggestion for parents of gifted GLBTQ kids is love, respect, and value your child for the person s/he is. We can have all kinds of ideas about the children we might have before they are born, but we need to openly treasure them for whoever they turn out to be.

Here are some other suggestions I’d like to share:

  • Take your kid’s word regarding her/his sexuality. If your daughter or son shared this with you, it happened after long, agonizing hours of deciding how and when to tell you. This identity element is as legitimate as the gifted one, and it should not be questioned. Avoid asking whether it might be a phase or just something the kid is “experimenting” with.
  • Learn as much as you can. Just as you do for the gifted/talented aspect of your child, learn about sexuality and gender identity so that you can better understand this part of your child. Unless you are also a member of a gender or sexual minority, you cannot fully appreciate your kid’s experience. Still, get as informed as you can so that you can be a valuable resource.
  • Don’t pathologize or focus on the risky elements of your child’s life. Every kid faces risks and imperfect outcomes. Support your child in constructive ways that acknowledge that some things might be more difficult because of gender/sexuality matters, but try not to take over or act as though this is a tragic thing.
  • Practice zero tolerance for gay bashing. You might not realize it, but if you don’t let Uncle Chuck get away with making jokes about GLBT people at Thanksgiving, your kid will think you’re a hero. Be an “upstander,” not a “bystander.” By that, I mean that we parents need to actively demonstrate our beliefs about the benefits of difference.
  • Find sympathetic teachers/staff at school. The Gay-Lesbian-Straight Education Network (GLSEN) has “Safe Space Kits” that can be purchased for $20. Even if your child never actually talks to a teacher about sexuality issues, knowing that the teacher’s classroom/office is a safe space will help provide support for your child when you are not there.

Great News for Minnesota Students!

The Safe and Supportive Schools Act finally passed both houses and was signed into law by Governor Dayton. MinnPost did a nice write-up of the journey and the fellow who was instrumental in promoting the legislation. Now Minnesota, which had the weakest language around bullying in the country, has some of the strongest. Kids will benefit, and that’s what is important.

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