THIS month, you’ll probably have seen events, flags, banners and rainbows appearing on buildings, venues and social media accounts across the region as it celebrates Pride month.

NSPCC assistant director for North East, Yorkshire and Humber Debra Radford, talks about how counsellors support children and young people with questions or worries about their sexuality.

Every June, the rainbow flag is flown to celebrate the visibility of, and show solidarity with the UK’s LGBTQ+ community and its allies.

While Pride month is a celebration for everyone across the country, regardless of their sexuality or gender, the NSPCC knows that for lots of children and young people here in Yorkshire and across the UK, things can feel less positive.

Counsellors from the NSPCC’s Childline service speak to thousands of children and young people here and across the UK each year who contact them with worries or for support around the topics of gender and sexuality.

Many do not feel confident speaking about these issues, or they may need support to deal with something they’re feeling. Some have been bullied about their gender or sexuality, while others are scared to speak out about these issues, even to their closest friends or family members.

Nobody should be made to feel ashamed of their gender or sexuality, so for young people in Yorkshire and across the country it’s vitally important that our Childline counsellors are available around the clock, on the phone and through our website, to offer any support they need if they feel they are struggling.

Young people can phone Childline at any time for free and confidential support and advice, or they can visit the Childline website’s moderated message boards, where they can find out how other young people their own age have dealt with similar worries or situations.

There’s lots of advice, information and guidance there too which they may find useful.

While our counsellors are always there for young people, it’s also vitally important that parents, carers, friends and family listen to children whenever they speak out about any thoughts or concerns about their gender or sexuality.

In 2020/21, coming out was the top concern for LGBTQ+ young people who contacted Childline about sexual and gender identity, and many told our counsellors they were worried about how their family might react.

As children and young people grow up it’s only natural for them to develop and express their sexuality. Older teenagers might start dating or having relationships, while younger children might show curiosity about sex or the changes that happen during puberty.

It’s also common for young people to feel unsure about their sexuality or who they’re attracted to, and some may find that their sexuality changes over time.

This is all part of growing up, and the best thing parents and carers can do is listen to their child’s thoughts on the subject, and to be as supportive as possible.

Ask them what they’re worried about, and if there’s anything you can do to help. It might be that they’re worried about coming out to a friend or relative, and while it’s important not to pressure them, they might appreciate it if you offer to help them broach the subject.

But if their thoughts are a surprise to you, just remember that whoever they love and however they identify, they’re still the child you’ve always loved.

Just knowing that they have your support will be an enormous help, but sometimes it can be difficult to know how to offer that.

NSPCC website has lots of information on how to help a young person who may be struggling with gender or sexuality issues. NSPCC helpline 0808-8005000.

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