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How to Help Transgender Children

We are not born knowing what it is to be a boy or a girl; whether we like pink or blue or cars or dolls, but we are encouraged into a binary from a very early age. If your child begins to continually reject their gender’s stereotypical traits, it can be surprising and sometimes unexpected.

Understanding and supporting young people through this confusing time will be something that shapes both of you for life. Transgender issues are still widely misunderstood, so approaching support in a holistic and considerate way can help you tackle the unique challenges that you will encounter.

What is gender dysphoria?

What happens when we look in the mirror and our body doesn’t match the image we have of it in our mind? Specifically, gender is not defined by what our physical bodies look like, it’s how we feel on the inside. A person’s biological sex is assigned when we are born and our gender identity comes later when we develop our own sense of self.

Gender dysphoria is a condition where a person’s own gender identity does not match the gender they were assigned at birth. This can cause feelings of upset, discomfort and confusion. They could feel like a female in a male’s body, a male in a female’s body, have no connection with either gender (agender) or feel they are in-between or beyond both genders (non-binary). The NHS have a helpful guide about the condition here.

How would I know my child is Transgender?

If your young person isn’t comfortable disclosing these feelings outright, there can be some signs to look out for. UK Trans Youth charity Mermaids say that showing non-conforming gender traits can be a sign, ‘along with a persistent, insistent and consistent cross gender identification’.

A child trying to express their identity can come in the form of:

  • Saying that they don’t want to wear clothing specific to their gender
  • Having a preference of /desire to own toys designed for the opposite gender
  • Being uncomfortable having certain styles of haircut
  • Being visibly happier when allowed to do something related to their aspired gender
  • Continually referring to themselves as a different gender

Showing a few of these traits does not mean that your child is definitively trans, but being able to see the signs and trying to keep in tune with their behaviour can help any transition for a child. It is always positive to allow your child to explore these feelings in a safe and supported way. Try not to reject any behaviours that you see, as this may be a difficult time for everyone involved.

The AllSorts Youth Project sate that reaching out for support online is a very good way to find more information on how you can help your child and can often be a positive ‘turning point’. Raising a gender variant young person comes with unique challenges, the most important thing you can do is be there for your child. Accepting that this is how they feel and showing them the love and care they need at this confusing time will help them to come to terms with their feelings in their own time.

Listen

Sometimes acknowledging and listening to your child when they open up to you can be the most important first step in navigating this unknown territory. If your young person has expressed to you that they feel different, let them lead the conversation.

  • If your child states that they’d like a different name, try this at home and with family.
  • Asking your young person how you can help to open a dialogue for both of you.
  • If they want to start using different pronouns allow for this, equally using gender neutral pronouns they/them may be preferred.
  • Be open and accommodating at home, let them choose clothing to wear around the home if they aren’t ready to do this in public.

Listening and acting on ways to make your child feel more comfortable is a vital step in understanding and helping their voice to be heard.

Advocate

Being able to support your young person unconditionally will strengthen your relationship and their confidence. Action for Children suggest that challenging transphobic behaviour from other family members or friends is a good start, backing children at meetings and at home or at school will show them that you are there.

Not everyone will be as understanding as you, so being able to use opportunities to share what you know can help to enlighten others who may show intolerance. Asking whether your child would like their school to know can be helpful, if they can have adults who they can confide in may make them feel more comfortable at school.

Making information easily available to young people can be a way to build their confidence in their identity. Encouraging your child to attend LGBT+ youth meetings where they can meet others with similar experiences can help to feel less isolated.

Educate

LGBT+ rights charity Stonewall reports that 60% of trans youth have experienced physical assault. A lot of the time this is because of the reactionary nature of the general public. Verbal and physical abuse against transgender people is sadly common, so helping to educate those around you can be a good start to encourage tolerance. Acting as a role model for your friends and family can help to further inform, you’re trying to create an environment in which your child feels comfortable and this will start with those closest around you both.

Getting support for not only your child, but for yourself as well will empower you to advocate for them. Joining parent forums and support groups will be an effective way to make sure you’re also getting the support you need during this period. If you feel you are in the position to share your experience with others, joining online forums and attending meetings will provide support and resources that both you and your child will find valuable.

There is plenty of content online for you to research, learn new skills and read others’ stories. We’ve included a list of helpful websites below to help both you and your children through this journey.

Resources

Compass understands that every young person has their own diverse story, we provide support, resources, and relevant training for all our foster carers. If you’d like some more information about fostering with us click here.


What to do on results day – A guide for young people

What to do on results day

What to do on results day:

The night before you collect your results try to get a good night’s sleep. Getting your results can be both an exciting and anxious time.
Make sure you know what time and where to collect your results and aim to be on time.
Well done if you have achieved or succeeded your grades!
If you tried your best but haven’t quite achieved the grades you hoped for or needed for your next step whatever that may be – don’t panic!

College application
If you have applied to a college and haven’t achieved the exact entry requirements, contact the college in the first instance. Colleges can be flexible and depending on your grades it may not make a difference however it is advisable to call them. On some occasions you may be offered a lower level course which just means you have an extra year of study but this can be a good thing as you will gain more skills and knowledge along the way and give you a good understanding of your subject for the following year’s course.

Sixth form and year 13
For sixth form and year 13, if you haven’t achieved the desired grades speak to the post 16 adviser within the school, they may be flexible with entry requirements depending on your grades.
However if you do not have the desired grades for 6th form it is hoped you have a back-up plan of another school or college place. Call the school or college immediately on receiving your results.
Many colleges will accept applications on results day if they have the places available on their courses.
If all else fails and you find yourself without a post 16 or college place, there are other options such as apprenticeships and training providers offering courses which have start dates after September.
Most importantly speak to the adults around you who will help you to make decisions.

Unhappy with your exam results?
If you are unhappy with your results, speak to your teachers about the best options for you. You might decide to see your exam paper, go for a review, or re-sit your exam.
Further reading:
http://www.gov.uk/appeal-exam-result
http://www.gov.uk/guidance/appeal-exam-results-for-schools-colleges-and-private-candidates

University
Congratulations if you have achieved the grades you needed for your chosen University course.
If you haven’t achieved the grades you needed you can apply for other courses through Clearing.
Clearing is a service from UCAS which gives students a final chance to apply for a university course beginning in September. It runs from mid-July to September each year.
In Clearing you can see which courses have places remaining. You can use Clearing if you:
• have already completed a UCAS application
• apply after 30 June – You’ll automatically be entered into clearing if you apply late for your course (after 30 June)
• didn’t receive any offers (or none you wanted to accept)
• didn’t meet the conditions of your offers

Finding a course through Clearing
You can find out which courses have vacancies through UCAS from mid-August to late September. Not all universities or courses have vacancies, and some may be filled quickly.
You can contact universities and colleges about getting a place once you’ve got your exam results.

Learn how clearing works
http://www.ucas.com/ucas/undergraduate/apply-and-track/results/no-offers-learn-how-clearing-works

Accepting an offer
You can only accept 1 offer. When your place is confirmed, you have to accept it and can’t look for another place.

Help & advice
Contact the UCAS Exam Results Helpline for free advice – 0808 100 8000

Useful websites and apps:
Apprenticeships – www.findapprenticeship.service.gov.uk/apprenticeshipsearch
The Princes Trust – www.princes-trust.org.uk
UCAS (The Universities and Colleges Application Service) – www.ucas.com
National Careers Service – www.nationalcareersservice.direct.gov.uk
Child line (free 24 hour counselling service for children and young people) – www.childline.org.uk
Stop Breathe & Think. A free mindfulness, and meditation app aimed to reduce stress and anxiety – stopbreathethink.org
Calm. A free meditation app to reduce anxiety, sleep better and feel happier – Calm.com