A Difficult Family Transition



Dr. Phil sits down with Dr. Siegel to talk about Toni's situation.

"Well, it's very clear that when you're talking to a mother about her child, it can get very emotionally charged, and this is an emotionally-charged subject matter: a transgendered child, and making the decision to either resist those tendencies or assist in the transition," Dr. Phil says. "And what I want to do is talk about the challenges a mother faces when she chooses to allow a child to transition as we've been talking about here. Dr. Siegel, clearly, once a decision is made for a child who was born genetically, internally, as one sex and transitions to live with a different gender identity, there is a sense of loss for some parents, right?"

"Absolutely," Dr. Siegel says. "Let's say I have a boy, and then you find that the child has this brain identity as a girl, and it's on the far end of the spectrum, then that child feels that she must be what her brain is actually telling her. In a way, you've got to give up the identity of the child as a boy and begin to accept that, and that's a kind of grief that parents need to go through."

"So, it truly is a sense of loss because you had bonded with this little boy, and you have this identity and this relationship is defined this way. What does a parent do? I know we have a situation here where the mother is actually spending some time in the cemetery, symbolically, I suppose, mourning or grieving this loss. What are the steps a parent has to do to get through this?" Dr. Phil asks.

"Well, this kind of transition needs a kind of ritual in that way, so she's trying to go to the cemetery, but it's not working for her," Dr. Siegel says. "So, one thing is to get some support. She might need some help from a therapist, for example, who can help her understand what this means in her life, that she has a child who was a boy, and she lets him go. Understanding what's going on inside yourself " this book Parenting from the Inside Out, that you and I have talked about, is something that I think would help her, so that she can actually begin to do this process of self-reflection and ask, ‘What does letting him go mean to me in my life?' To really feel it in your body, to allow that grieving process to happen, getting therapeutic support if necessary, and then bringing [her daughter] into her life, because right now, that's where the conflict is inside of her."

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