Ten Tips for Adults Working with GLBT Youth

Advocates for Youth, an organization that focuses its work on young people ages 14-25 in the U.S. and around the globe, recently published ten tips for parents of GLBT children. These tips are fitting, seeing that Advocates champions efforts that help young people make informed and responsible decisions about their reproductive and sexual health. Originally written by Luca Maurer, Coordinator of The Center for LGBT Education, Outreach and Services at Ithaca College, the tips were directed at parents. Here, the tips have been rewritten to reflect the many trusted adults in a GLBT young person’s life as they journey through the “coming out” process, explaining how a caring adult can be there for GLBT youth.

  1. Engage with the youth. Ask questions, listen, empathize, share and just be present.
  2. Go back to school. Get the facts and educate yourself on terminology, statistics, etc. Challenge yourself to go beyond stereotyped images of GLBT people.
  3. Get to know the community. What resources are available–GLBT community center, bookstore with a selection of GLBT books, Gay/Straight Alliance at school?
  4. Explore the Internet. There is a growing amount of excellent information on the Internet that connects people with support and materials on these important topics.
  5. Find out where your local Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) meets. Or, a similar support organization; finding another person you can trust to share your experience with is invaluable.
  6. Don’t make it ALL there is. Just because someone has come out as GLBT does not mean the young person’s whole world revolves around sexual orientation or gender identity.
  7. ASK before you “come out” to others on the youth’s behalf. Friends and family members might have questions or want to know what’s going on, but don’t betray the youth’s trust!
  8. Find out what kind of support, services, and education are in place at your child’s school or home life. Things like nondiscrimination policies, support groups, and “out” mentors or people to look up to all make a difference.
  9. Praise the GLBT youth for coming to you to discuss this issue. Encourage the youth to continue to keep you “in the know.”
  10. Educate yourself on local, state and national laws and polices regarding GLBT identities. At both the state and national level, many GLBT individuals’ rights are not guaranteed by law.

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