A big part of parenting is finding the balance between guiding and accepting. There are so many ways you can help your child in a hands-on manner. At the same time, you have to know when to step back, learn, and accept. You want your child to be secure, confident, and authentic — even if that takes them to a place you didn’t expect.
If your child comes out to you, it’s not unusual to not be sure what to do. We’ll get to some suggestions below. But, for starters, be attentive and very present in the conversation. Validate what they’ve shared and make it crystal clear that they still have your love and support.
Coming Out: The Benefits and Challenges
Society has made progress, but more work is still needed. This means your child may face treatment that ranges from being gossiped about to being threatened. They can lose friends, and perhaps some family members will reject them, too. Communities they were once a part of — sports teams, religious groups, etc. — may no longer welcome them.
As the parent of an LGBTQ child, you cannot afford to ignore such risks. But you don’t have to see this as the only outcome. At the same time, your child is suddenly enjoying gifts like:
- No longer having to hide and worry about being “caught.”
- Avoiding the negative mental health outcomes of staying silent.
- Making new connections with peers who identify as LGBTQ.
- The self-esteem and comfort that comes with living honestly.
How Parents Can Support Their LGBTQ Children Who Have Just Come Out
Let’s start with a few “don’ts” to avoid:
- Don’t treat it as a “phase.” This never makes the situation better. Honor their journey and remain curious to ask questions and learn.
- Don’t say, “I knew it.” This is terribly invalidating. Of course, you’re allowed to have had suspicions previously, but now is not the time to talk about them.
- Don’t immediately introduce religion-related topics. Your family might be religious, and this development could cause you some inner conflict. These feelings deserve to be honored and processed — but again, put them aside when your child has worked up the courage to come out to you. You’ll have time to revisit all of it soon enough.
How to Show Support
- Thank them for being honest and for trusting you. No matter how much your child loves you, they were undoubtedly nervous about this moment. Recognize their courage and how much they value your support.
- Again, leave no doubt that you love, respect, and support them. They will need reassurance — now and always. They’ve certainly heard the horror stories about LGBTQ being thrown out of their homes. Ease their mind even if your mind is churning.
- Be open to meeting their new friends. You’ve probably hosted sleepovers, parties, and more. If your child’s social circle shifts, there’s no reason for any of that to change.
- Ask them what they need from you. If you’re not up to speed on LGBTQ issues, ask for help. Demonstrate your acceptance by doing the work. Also, you might be called upon to be the one who tells the rest of the family. You didn’t ask for that role, so it’s essential that you get some support of your own.
Speaking of Support of Your Own…
No one should expect you to casually figure all of this out. There is no shame in recognizing the need to get help. Your life has just changed in a major way, and it can be immensely helpful to have someone to talk with. If any of the above felt like it hit close to home, reach out to learn more about LGBTQ counseling.