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November 2019

LBGTQ FAQ

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Did you know between 18-20% of teens in the United States identify as LBGTQ.  What does that even mean?  How do you know if someone is LBGTQ?  How can you support LBGTQ youth?

LBGTQ is an acronym that stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer and/or Questioning.  It is an ever-changing umbrella term for those who have a non-normative gender or sexuality.  According to the American Psychological Association, sex is assigned at birth, refers to one’s biological status as either male or female, and is associated primarily with physical attributes such as chromosomes, hormone prevalence, and external and internal anatomy. Gender refers to the socially constructed roles, behaviors, activities, and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for boys and men or girls and women.

Did you know 40% of the transgender community admit attempting suicide at least once in their lifetime?  Gender stereotyping can be described as generalized views of characteristics or roles that are traditionally possessed by or performed by men and women.  Examples of gender stereotypes exist everywhere.  Do you ever notice them? Next time you take a trip to Target, walk down all the toy isles and observe.  Are there certain aisles with an overwhelming amount of blue or green?  Are there little boys smiling and playing with toy cars on the boxes?  Do you see little girls wearing crowns and dressed up as a princess in an aisle consumed in pink?  Most of us never even think about it, but if I had to guess, you would notice if the little boy on the box was the one dressed up as a princess. Why?

Did you know the U.K. just ruled to ban gender stereotyping that is perceived as harmful to reduce gender inequality?

How to support LBGTQ youth:

  1. Practice using LGBTQ inclusive words and phrases every day.

“Ladies and gentleman” vs. “Folks”

“Policeman”                    vs. “Police officer”

“He” or “She”                   vs. “They”

 

  1. Show you support the LBGTQ community and show your home is a safe place (attend local PRIDE events, know LBGTQ resources in your community, display a “Safe Zone” sign or rainbow flag at your home, have LBGTQ sensitive books and movies accessible in your home)

 

  1. Educate yourself and know about your own gender and sexuality. The Genderbread Person is a great way to learn about gender and sexuality in all its complexities from a continuum perspective.  Do it with the youth!  https://www.genderbread.org/

 

  1. Understand if a youth decides to “come out” to you, they trust you. For some, this task may be terrifying, as they may have been rejected by loved ones in the past. Be unconditionally supportive and let them know it will not change your relationship.  Avoid probing questions and let them take the lead.  Clarify if other people know, as you don’t want to risk “coming out” for them to others.
  2. Encourage and support youth through self-growth and exploration. As someone who is close to that youth, it can feel conflicting.  You want to support them, but you also are fearful for them.  Discouraging gender expression and avoiding environments where they may be a target of discrimination can do more damage than the potential discrimination, itself.

 

  1. Humans make mistakes and that’s okay. I get it, it can be overwhelming trying to understand all the appropriate terms and pronouns to use, as it’s ever changing and can be subjective to that person.  You may avoid interactions or situations completely to avoid offending someone or getting it wrong.  Be Human.  Asking someone their preferred pronouns or what gender fluid means is showing that person you care.

 

  1. Advocate. Advocate.

 

 

https://thesafezoneproject.com/

https://www.hrc.org/

https://time.com/5607209/uk-gender-stereotypes-adverts/

 

This blog post was written by Post Adopt Coordinator, Brittney Engelhard, LBSW.

Helping Our Children Grieve Their Losses

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Youth being comforted on couch

Grief and Loss are two of the Seven Core Issues in Adoption that we discuss in Permanency and Adoption Competency training. A lot of our children’s behaviors can be a result of unresolved grief and loss. We find it hard to address grief and loss because it will result in our children experiencing painful feelings all over again. By not addressing it, are we really stopping the pain? NO, we are just avoiding it. Our children feel grief and loss, and they are unable to describe how they feel, and may act out instead.

As stated in the Seven Core Issues in Adoption and Permanency by Sharon Kaplain Roszia and Allison Davis Maxon, “Loss begins the journey. It is crisis and/or trauma that creates the circumstances that lead to the necessity of adoption and permanency. Adoption and permanency losses are too often left un-named, un-acknowledged, and un-grieved.” These struggles with loss and grief can come out in forms of poor behavior or choices from our children. So how do can we help?

Jae Ran Kim gives some suggestions on how to help our children grieve these losses in an article “Ambiguous Loss Haunts Foster and Adopted Children”. The suggestions are:

• Help your child identify what they have lost. Some examples include birthparents, extended family members, old friends, an old neighborhood, their home, people who share their name, their home country, their native language, etc.
• Give voice to the ambiguity. Acknowledge and validate your child if they express feelings of loss. Show that you understand and sympathize.
• Redefine the parameters of what constitutes family. Family has some ambiguous boundaries, and can include a close family friend.
• Give your child permission to grieve the loss of birth parents without guilt. Express times, places and ways your child can express their grief. Some examples can be talking, journaling, drawing or venting feelings through exercise.
• Create a “loss box.” Debbie Riley, a therapist and author who works with adopted teens, guides clients as they decorate a box into which they can put items that represent things they have lost. By creating the box, youth participate in a ritual that acknowledges their loss, and construct a controlled vehicle for revisiting their losses in the future.
• Include birth parents and other birth family members in pictorial representations of the adoptive family tree. One option would be to depict an orchard where trees grow side by side. The birth family, former foster families, or other significant people in their life can be other trees in the same family orchard.
• Be conscious of how certain events, such as birthdays, holidays, adoption day, etc –may trigger intense feelings of loss. Add or alter family rituals to respect the child’s feelings. An example may be on birthdays add an extra candle to the cake in memory of the birth family or say something like “I bet your birth mom and dad are thinking about you today.”
• Keep your expectations reasonable. Let your child know feelings related to these losses will come and go at different times in his/her life. Be a safe person to whom they can express those feelings.
• Model normal, healthy responses to loss. If you or your parenting partner suffers a loss, share your feelings openly. Let your children see you mourn, so they can learn how you express sadness and anger about loss.

Behaviors when struggling with loss can become more apparent when children approach adolescence. Missing pieces of their history make developing a healthy identity a challenge. We can assist them by helping them to understand they are their own person with their own set of strengths and gifts. Working through and grieving their losses give them a better chance at creating a healthy relationship with you and with everyone they meet.

Challenge yourself today to help your child grieve their losses. The feelings are there anyway so help them learn how to handle and grieve their losses in a healthy way.

 

This blog post was written by Post Adopt Coordinator and adoptive mom superstar, Sherie Madewell-Buesgens, LBSW.

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