1 Apr 2021

Parenting: supporting rainbow students

From Nine To Noon, 11:48 am on 1 April 2021

As we come to the end of the Pride season with events around the country, Nine to Noon takes a look at how parents can better support LGBTQI children.

Senior Researcher at the New Zealand Council for Educational Research Mohamed Alansari tells Lynn Freeman about a survey and research about rainbow students and communities.

Alansari says that, while we’ve come a long way, research shows that students that are part of the rainbow community still report low levels of well-being, higher levels of stress, and experience greater levels of bullying.

people, homosexuality, same-sex marriage, gay and love concept - close up of happy lesbian couple holding hands over rainbow flag background

Photo: 123RF

“That’s been really consistent in the last ten years, which is quite worrying for me, so I really hope that Pride season is a way to bring us all together and think about the world. I want us to live in a world where those kids live, succeed and thrive because of their school experiences and not in spite of them.”

He says schools installing gender neutral bathrooms is a positive step but there is more that needs to be done.

“Some of the things we’ve been hearing from schools who are doing great things in this area is that they’ve taken a holistic, overall school approach that involves the community and said, right, we want to embrace diversity and wellbeing top down from a school policy level and classroom practices.

“Having a unisex bathroom is one indication, but kids want way more than this. They’ve been telling us that they want to feel like they belong, they want to engage and feel respected and involved and not put down or feel ashamed for being who they are.”

Another positive thing he’s heard of parents doing is getting together in support groups to learn more about their child’s diversity and get an understanding of the terminology and their needs.

“The other nice thing about that is they actually start sharing resources because a lot of parents aren’t aware that there are a lot of resources online where young people have written the things they wish their parents would have done.”

Many parents do find that their child’s coming out can be difficult for them and parents of transgender kids often reporting grieving for the daughter or son they thought they had, but Alansari says they do come around and love and support their children.

“A lot of them have said things like, that is my child, that is what they and I’ll support them in their dreams, careers and aspirations and what not more so than what I’d like to put on them. We really hear that a lot.”