Navigating the Generation Gap:

5 Ways to Support Your LGBTQ+ Teen When Grandparents Don't Understand

While attitudes and acceptance towards those that identify as LGBTQ+ has moved on in leaps and bounds, it can still be a challenge with grandparents who often either dismiss identities that don’t conform to heteronormative standards, refer to it as a ‘phase’ or at worst, ostracise and exclude your teen. Supporting your child through these challenging times is important for their mental health, as well as for reassuring them that your love and acceptance is unconditional. In this article, we explore 6 ways you can support your teen and play a positive role in this specific family dynamic.


  1. Talk with Your Teen


It’s important to keep close to your teen as they navigate their sexual or gender identity, which includes the process of sharing that information with family and friends. Your support and love during this time is the bedrock of their mental health and wellbeing. It can be very hurtful for both you and your teen to deal with unhelpful comments and opinions from grandparents or elder relatives, and family life can become strained, particularly if these family members are involved in everyday life.

In this scenario, you are the bridge between the two generations and while it may not be an easy place to be, it's important to maintain a sense of poise and calm while acting as the go-between. Listening to your child and understanding how they feel and shielding them from comments from grandparents that may be unwelcome, is an important part of parenting your LGBTQ+ teen. It can also help to remind your teen that their grandparents have lived in a different era of acceptance, perhaps hold particular faith views and may take longer to get to grips with newer societal norms. Empathy from both sides can be possible with accurate storytelling and by instilling a level of kindness and understanding from both parties.


  1. Use The Language of Love

Acceptance by you is a crucial part of your teen’s self-acceptance and ability to stay mentally healthy. This is even more so if grandparents are pulling in the other direction. Saying, ‘I love you’ is hugely important for your teen’s self-worth, they are looking for psychological safety as they explore who they are and knowing that you love them whatever their sexual or gender identity is hugely important to them. You may also feel challenged by their news but telling them those three words and offering a physical hug and warmth will mean so much to them. Rejection for your teen at this time is very tough and remembering that this may be encountered from friends, teachers and others, outside the four walls of the sanctuary of your home, is important to acknowledge. Your love and warmth, together with non-judgement will help them navigate this time.  Of course, this is something you may have been fully aware of for some time too.


  1. Advocate for Your Teen


You may hear negative and mean comments from both grandparents and others. As their parent this is painful and disrespectful too. Speaking up for them and supporting them when they are not in the room and there to defend themselves is a part of helping them through this time. It’s also important for the sake of educating others and pointing out outdated information and biases. Exclusion or negativity about your teen is a form of discrimination on the basis that they are being spoken about in a nasty way because of who they are. Ensuring that you set the boundaries of acceptance with grandparents is key to helping create a caring environment for your child.

Grandparents may feel it’s something that can be ‘changed’, but when they also understand that this is not possible, it’s good to have a conversation that focuses on the happiness of your teen. Help them to understand that your teen isn’t ‘choosing’ their sexuality and that to you (and hopefully to them) your teen is still the same person they were before. You can also explain that not supporting your teen could result in alienating them, causing a rift that may never be repaired.


  1. Help Your Teen Look to The Future

Feeling stuck in the ‘here and now’ is a rut that can be difficult to get out of when you’re a teen, especially if you’re facing hard times. The world can feel small and out of your control. So, it can help to reassure your child that they can envision a future as a thriving LGBTQ+ adult, free from fear of exclusion or being misunderstood by loved ones. Your teen may identify with LGBTQ+ friends, family members or celebrities and it could help if you point towards them, using them as a source of hope and positivity, looking at their happiness and success in life. Modelling is an important part of parenting and if you are positive and forward-looking, they’re likely to follow suit.


  1. Suggest Support Groups

As a parent, you are the most important person in your teen’s life but having some external affiliations with LGBTQ+ support groups can help them gain comfort and advice from others. It can also help them to build a group of friends that are supportive and who get it. Being LGBTQ+ as a teen is potentially very isolating, particularly if your teen is managing by ‘silencing’ their feelings and identity at school. Having allies is a part of long-term acceptance. The danger of not talking or feeling comfortable to do so is that it can damage mental health and even lead to more serious conditions including depression and self-harm. Connecting with ‘people like me’ is part of the journey.

Below are the details of youth support groups for LGBTQ+ teens and young people in the UK. It’s possible too that other teens are experiencing alienation and negative comments from grandparents or other relatives. Sharing stories can feel comforting and insight from people who’ve been there can help with navigating this experience.


The Proud Trust

The Mix