8 Tips for Parents whose Children are coming out as LGBTQ
Written by: Melissa DaSilva LICSW
When children come out to parents as LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer) they can feel overwhelmed by feelings and questions. They may feel alone or at fault for the things your child is telling you. Sometimes concerns about what others will think about you or your family. It’s amazing that all these thoughts and feelings will come all at once and in an instant. It can be difficult to be fully present for your child when these are consuming your mind. Here are 7 tips that can be helpful:
1.Take a Breath
This may sound like a silly tip, but it can be one of the most important tips. Taking slow and deep breaths through the nose sends signals to the brain that you are not in danger and that you can be calm for this moment. Breathing deep will ground you and your thoughts and allows you to be present for a conversation with your child.
When your child finally feels comfortable with coming out to you as LGBTQ, it is something they have probably rehearsed over and over in their minds for possibly years. Listen to what they are saying. Give them the space to speak and share what they know may be upsetting to you. Be present and truly listen to the words that are coming out, don’t be rehearsing your response to their coming out in your mind while they are sharing. While listening you may be able to hear their pain, fear, sadness, anxiety and even happiness. Just listening can be one of the most important things you can do for you child at this time.
You may be having your own feelings of pain, fear, sadness, anger and sadness at this time. This is very natural and expected. The moment that your child is coming out is not the time to express these. The one feeling that you need to express to your child is your unconditional love. You need to remind them that you love them no matter how they identify or who they love.
4. Ask questions
It’s ok to ask questions, they just need to be respectful questions. It’s natural to have so many questions for your child because some of this may be very new to you. Be prepared to have many of your questions answered with “I don’t Know”. Even though your child identifies as LGBTQ, it doesn’t mean that they will know all the answers to your questions. Being LGBTQ isn’t a black and white issue. One important question you may want to ask would be,
“What can I do to help you in your coming out process?”
This lets your child know that you support them and that you want this process to continue to be about them.
5. Educate Yourself
There are questions that your child may not be able to answer for you or questions that you may not feel ready to ask yet. Terminology, etiquette, and scientific information are always changing. A term that you may have used to reference a transgender 15 years ago may be offensive now. It’s good to be on top this type of information. Some great websites, blogs, books and seminars are available to help you stay educated on these topics. Educating yourself is another way to show your child that you support them and their identity.
6.You didn’t Make a Mistake
Identifying as LGBTQ doesn’t have anything to do with something you did or didn’t do to your child. It’s not because of the way your child was raised or something that could have happened during the pregnancy. It’s also not a choice, so it not occurring out of spite or attention seeking. Being LGBTQ is something that needs to be accepted as another part of human nature.
7. It’s not about You
When your child comes out to you, one of your initial reactions may be “What will our friends and family think about me having a LGBTQ child?” or “What will our church think about this?” As a parent, your job has always been to be supportive of your child. They should not be just an extension of your reputation. Your religious beliefs and morals may conflict with the actions of accepting a LGBTQ child. The fact may be that you may have to choose between having a child that you love to stay in your life or your religious beliefs. Hopefully, this isn’t a difficult choose for you.
8. Don’t Isolate
After learning about your child’s identity, it can be confusing and you can feel alone. Especially if you are one of the first people that your child has come out to and has requested that you don’t tell others until your child is ready. The good thing is that you are not alone. There are support groups and therapists that can be extremely helpful. They are everywhere, finding your local PFLAG chapter can help you locate support groups. Meeting with a therapist will give you the opportunity to express all your thoughts and feelings without judgment. You can say things to your therapist that should be said to most other people in your life, and it’s ok. When looking for a therapist, inquire about being LGBT friendly. This way you know where they stand and they can be helpful.
You are not alone in this journey as a parent as a newly coming out child. There is so much support and information available now for parents than there has ever been. Your hope and dreams for your child may now change, and there may be a feeling or grief about this. It’s ok. If you find that you are interested in a LGBTQ friendly Therapist, East Coast Mental Wellness can help you. We have a lot of experience working with families and individuals of the LGBTQ Community. Give us a call to set up an appointment.
Melissa DaSilva, LICSW is a licensed therapist in private practice located in Providence, RI. She is the owner/president of her group practice East Coast Mental Wellness (www.eastcoastmentalwellness.com). Melissa has been a therapist for over 10 years, is an advocate for LGBT rights and public speaker. You can also find out more about Melissa on: Facebook and Twitter .