Communication is the key to overcoming any family obstacle. When a parent decides to transition as transgender, they can use my Empathic Process as a structured and safe way in which parents and children have the opportunity to express their feelings openly and honestly without defense. It is important for both families and transitioning parents to know that they are not alone, and that communication, empathy, and unconditional love are transformative in helping meet any challenge.
Carl Jung told us that there are many trees in our forest -- many parts of ourselves that need expression in different ways, at different times, in our lives. This is the human dilemma: we are all different.
Though we are more alike than we are different, as a species, we cannot always agree on everything. However, as a family, we are called upon, nevertheless to love one another. A family is a home team: the place where we are accepted for who we are, by people we can count on, to be there for us and love us, no matter what. What is important is that we honor, respect, and validate our differences, while not trying to create someone different out of the person we love.
For the Empathetic Process to succeed, it requires rules of engagement that each participant agrees to, up front. First and foremost, is that communication should be age-appropriate, especially in the discussion of subjects such as a parent's gender identity and the decision to transition. Each participant in the Empathic Process has an equal amount of time to speak, while the listeners actively pay attention, without defense. Finally, after each participant has his turn to speak, the family talks together, each expressing how they feel and what they need from their family. This process creates a safe, supportive environment in which every family member -- kids and parents -- can express themselves freely, ask questions, and be invested in the process, including consequences.
If the transgender parent or the family are having difficulty in communicating with one another, or if their range of feelings is too uncomfortable, than it is important to seek professional help. There are psychologists and psychiatrists who specialize in transgender family issues. A therapist's office is a contained and safe environment in which the transgender family can express feelings and receive guidance.
Transgender parents often deal with depression, isolation, and rejection, as they face situations of discrimination. It is important for their family to reach out and be supportive and accepting. Families need to remember that if they meet each other's needs with love and security, all other problems can be overcome. Families by nature are resilient... and unconditional love can conquer all challenges that they may face.