Managing your child’s gender identity issues as divorced parents
Today, it has become more common to hear of children identifying as transgender. When families live together, parents can address their child’s gender identity needs on a day-to-day basis. However, managing your child’s gender identity as divorced parents can present challenges.
If Possible, Plan During Divorce
In some instances, a child’s identification as another gender may not be a complete surprise to parents. It could be that the child has been dressing as the opposite sex or making statements about his or her feelings since early childhood. If parents know their child may later identify as a different gender, they can discuss this possibility during their divorce and agree on how to manage any related issues. This may include agreeing on a healthcare professional and to abide by his or her recommendations when it comes to supporting their child’s identity.
Find the Right Health Professionals
The most important things you can do as a parent for your child in this situation is to be supportive and non-judgmental. That being said, unless you are a trained professional or have had a life experience concerning someone’s gender identity, this may be an area which is outside of your understanding. If your child has started showing signs of changing gender identity or otherwise expressed something to that effect, you and your ex should discuss the matter and find the right medical and mental health professionals for your family. With their expert guidance, you can learn more about your child’s needs, emotions and perspective and what to expect in the future.
According to a recent article, a reported 60,000 Wisconsin residents are transgender, with two percent, or approximately 9000, being middle or high school-aged kids. Transgender kids are in a vulnerable stage of development and may be subject to ridicule, rejection, and even violence at the hands of peers. The Wisconsin Department of Public Health’s biennial Youth Risk Behavior Study found LGBTQ youth are statistically more likely to try tobacco and drugs, report depression, and are at an increased risk for suicide and feeling unsafe at school.
The place where your child is most in need of acceptance and support is in their home. Ideally, you and your ex can work together to learn about your child’s identity and be as supportive as possible. However, it may be that one parent has strong opposition to their child identifying as a different gender. How this parent treats their child and addresses their identity can have a significant impact on his or her mental health. If your ex refuses to accept your child, forces him or her to dress in clothing which is not appropriate for their identity, or belittles him or her, the consequences could be severe. If you and the other parent cannot agree on how to help your child manage their gender identity, then you may need to consult with a family law attorney to discuss your options.
At First Look Family Law, we have extensive experience helping our clients identify what they need to do to protect their children before, during, and after divorce. Call us today to set up a consultation so we can take a “first look” and talk about your next steps.