Every morning I play two online word games, Wordle and Spelling Bee. If you missed getting hooked, Wordle is a game in which you have to guess a secret word by guessing different five-letter words. When you submit a guess, the game greys out letters that aren’t in the secret word and color codes the correct letters based on how close they are to the correct placement in the word.
Spelling Bee is a puzzle of 7 letters and you make as many words as you can with any combination but you must use the center letter in every word. Each day there is at least one pangram solution that uses all of the letters. I often get stuck seeing the same word over and over so I use the “rotate” button to see new patterns and have come to realize that when I find one word it opens my brain up to more possibilities.
So, how in the world does this connect to parenting LGBTQ+ kiddos? Well, welcome to my brain – I tend to make connections among seemingly unrelated things, so here goes!
I got to thinking about how some parents describe their frustration trying to keep up with their child’s ever-shifting identity and it struck me as similar to what I experience playing word games. I start out with a blank and I have to guess what the correct answer of the day may be. Each attempt brings me closer to or further from discovering the secrets that are hidden to me, but known to the owner/creator. Sometimes I have to mix it all up to get a new perspective to find the answers.
As children (and even adults) are discovering new truths about their sexual or gender identity they may also have to change things up and approach it from a new perspective. This period of “trying on” may look to others as passing through phases or fads, but for many it is an authentic process to discover what is right for them.
Some queer people have clarity right off the bat and know their identity without question. Others know that a cisgender and/or heterosexual identity doesn’t fit, but they may have to explore the variety of the LGBTQ+ alphabet to find their right words. And even when they find their right identity they may need to further delve into degrees of gender and/or sexuality discover their true identity. And still others may determine that a single identity isn’t enough and may remain fluid throughout their lives.
How should parents manage what may feel like whiplash trying to keep up with their child’s ever-changing identity?
Go with the flow!
Throughout their discovery process people may change their manner of dress, hairstyle, and even their name. It is all a part of the journey of self-discovery. Making it about you (“I can’t keep up,” “I don’t think this is real,” “I think they are just following what their friends are doing,”…) invalidates your child’s autonomy (and isn’t the point of parenting to get them to be independent humans?)
And if their identity changes next week, or tomorrow, and again next month, believe them. Affirm them. Love them.
You don’t have to understand to respect it – that’s the cornerstone of empathy, the “E” in Parenting with CARE.
Your goal as a parent should be to help your child become their authentic self. Denying your child’s truth or asking them to wait until they have figured it out diminishes their lived experience and could lead to a break in the safety they feel with you.
Is it easy? Not necessarily, but as you know, parenting isn’t!
If you need a refresher, or haven’t yet downloaded it, I recommend my “Guide to Understanding LGBTQIA+” as a reference.