Ask Mary Jo: Support for transgender family & how to stop worrying

Hi Mary Jo,

Ten years ago, my brother came out that he was transgender. I want to know if you have tips how my family and I can accept and fully love him fully all around.



Transgenderism is a challenge for families who may deal with stigma, unkind relatives, and personal feelings of guilt – that they did something to cause this. They worry about their loved one’s future and may feel shame or embarrassment for how their child will be treated by others. Grieving is an important process for family members if they feel as though they lost the person they knew. Since everyone will have to make emotional and mental adjustments to help support your brother, seeking professional guidance from a trained therapist can help you and your family adjust and accept your brother’s new identity so you can love and support him better. The single best predictor of how well your brother will do in his transition is the love and support he gets from his family. Here are suggestions that will help you show your brother you love and support him more:

  1. Journal your thoughts and talk to a professional so you don’t use your brother as a reason for your feelings of guilt, shame, or embarrassment. Your feelings belong to you.
  2. Don’t try to talk your brother out of his decision or make him change his mind. Think how you would feel if someone tried to talk you into being a sex you weren’t.
  3. Follow your child’s lead. Let your child set the pace; this is their decision.
  4. Don’t dead-name your child and if you do, apologize. Dead-naming is when you insist on calling them by their old name instead of their preferred name. Insisting on calling your child by their old name is emotionally abusive and erodes trust between family members.
  5. Stay connected with your loved one. Your child’s gender identity has changed, but they are still the child you held at birth, cared for, and parented. They still have favorite meals, memories, and love for you. Be sure to hug them and let them know your love for them is forever. 

Hi Mary Jo,

Worry is praying for what you don’t want, but I still worry and then look for stuff that distracts my head which feeds my co-dependency. Can you help?



In a recent survey by Psychology Today, 38% of polled people said they worry every day. Chronic worriers report having developed a worry pattern way of living for more than 35 years. The good news is that within the past ten years research has found that cognitive-behavioral therapy can help you stop or at least minimize obsessive, anxious thoughts. Here are healthy ways to help you gain control of why you worry and take steps to stop it:

  1. Consider what you hope to accomplish with your worrying and how it will help you. Worry is a strategy people use to control situations out of their control. You may believe if you worry about it, it won’t happen, or you’ll have saved someone from it happening. 
  2. Ask yourself if your worry is productive today. Sometimes if you’re preparing for a project, lecture, or a big event, being worried helps you get the task done so you’ll do a great job. Don’t let it the worry frighten you or become your enemy if it helps you get the job done. But, if the worry leads to anxiety that paralyzes or consumes you, it’s unproductive. 
  3. Accept limits, uncertainty, and imperfection. No one is perfect; you’re human and we live in an uncertain, unpredictable world. In cognitive behavioral therapy, one of the tactics used is the “boring technique” because when you bore yourself with your worry, it actually stops. An example of this would be fearing the loss of your job or getting fired. If you repeat out loud the fear you’re worried about, you will quit worrying about it.
  4. Take control of when you worry. People who limit worry times for fifteen minutes reduce their need to worry. Having control over the worry helps you minimize its effect.
  5. Focus on what you can control. You cannot control how people will respond or what will happen in the future, but you can control whether or not you take your dog to the park, go for a run, or take the kids out for ice cream.