Our children challenge us to be better people, parents, and community members in a lot of different ways, and one of the challenging experiences a parent can have is having a son or daughter come to them and reveal that they are LGBTQ. This can cause a lot of confusion, questions, and even heartbreak. Generational differences in values, religion, and sexuality can make this difficult to navigate and may catch a parent off guard, but thankfully it doesn’t mean that you cannot have a close relationship. Here are some ideas to consider if your child comes out to you:
Disclosure Means They Trust You
When your child reveals their feelings to you about their sexuality or gender, this is a sign that they trust you! They trust you to keep them safe and to love them deeply. Regardless of how you feel about the news, you can celebrate the fact that your relationship is strong enough for that to happen. Cultivating a close connection with your child is not done overnight; it takes years of interaction for them to know that you love them unconditionally.
Stop and Breathe
For some families, a child coming out confirms what they’ve suspected for years, but for other families, it can be quite a shock. Give yourself time to process how you feel. Express your love for them while also allowing time for yourself to figure out how you feel about things. You may be uncertain as to what this means for your child’s future or for your family. Give yourself time and space to take it all in (especially if you find it hard). It’s important to verbalize this to you child so they don’t misinterpret you needing time to understand your own feelings as rejection or judgement towards them. A hug can say what most words can’t articulate!
Continue Finding Ways To Connect
It can be hard enough to feel close to our teenagers in particular, as they are searching for independence and trying to understand who they are! I encourage you to find ways to be close to your child, whether it be continuing your old traditions or starting new ones. In a time of uncertainty, it’s good to have some familiarity for them so that they know that you care for them and want them to be happy. Don’t make abrupt changes to your routine, but create new opportunities to spend time together and nourish your relationship.
Seek Out Counseling
This is likely a major change in your family life, so it’s good to have a professional to help you sort out your feelings. This may happen in an individual setting or involving the whole family together. Even though some may not like to admit it, it’s natural for the parent to feel a sense of grief and loss, as well as fear for their child and their future. A trained therapist can help you work through those emotions while also providing wonderful family resources to help you.