Maybe you are still in the early stages of coming to terms with your child’s sexuality, or perhaps you have already embraced the news. Regardless of where you are in the process of acceptance, one thing is likely true: you want to do what’s best for your child. While some of these may only apply if you are already quite comfortable with your child’s sexual orientation, here are some ways you can further support your child:
- Stand by your child’s side if he/or she experiences discrimination, intolerance, etc. Let your child know that he/she is not alone.
- Encourage your child to join a support group for other LGBTQ adolescents, and consider joining a support group for parents of LGBTQ children.
- Allow your child to make decisions about to whom he/she comes out, and when. It’s wonderful that you have accepted the news of your child’s sexuality, but don’t make it your news to tell. Coming out to other members of the community or extended family should be your child’s prerogative.
- Attend events in the LGBTQ community with your child (such as gay pride parades).
- Welcome your child’s friends and significant other into your home, and make an effort to get to know them.
- Continue to spend quality time together as a family, which conveys the message that you value your child just as much as you did before he/she came out.
As difficult as it might be for you to come to terms with your child’s sexuality, imagine how hard the situation must be for your child. When teens come out, they often have to question where they will be accepted, which friendships will last, if they’ll feel rejected at school, if their parents will cut them off financially, etc. It can be an extremely lonely time for them. You have the choice to contribute to their feelings of rejection and isolation, or you can be a source of love and support.
Having a strong support system can help buffer your child against some negative experiences that are unfortunately prevalent amongst gay teens (such as depression and anxiety). Your child needs and wants your love. Even if it is difficult for you to embrace his/her sexuality, it’s essential that you let them know you are not going to disown him/her for being gay. And assure him/her that even though you may be having trouble at the moment with the news, your love for him/her outweighs any concerns you have.
Additionally, getting the support from people who understand what you are going through as a result of counselling can be a wonderful option for both gay children as well as their parents. Mental health professionals are trained in techniques such as cognitive-behavioural therapy and Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), which may help you and/or your child deal with negative emotions and conflicts you may be experiencing during this difficult time.
Remember—as difficult as it may have been for you to hear it, your child loved and trusted you enough tell you. In many families, initial acceptance (if any) is not always possible. If for whatever reason be it cultural, religious or other, you cannot come to loving and accepting terms with your child’s sexuality, we suggest that you focus on tolerance and support in place of acceptance. Homosexuality is not a phase or illness and thus it cannot be ‘fixed’ or ‘cured’. It is also not a phase that they are going to grow out of, and so it is important that you seek out resources and supports to help you to come to terms with this reality. LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered or questioning) youth face very serious challenges everyday, whether it be homophobia, transphobia, violence, depression or other stressors in their lives, your child needs to know that you are on their side and that home is a safe place where they can come to you anytime for Love, Acceptance and Support.