Prepare Yourself for the Unexpected
Most parents, according to research, are broadsided by the child’s news that he or she is gay. Like many parents, you may have suspected that your child’s sexual orientation since childhood, but to actually hear the confession from your child’s lips may dredge up a host of reactions: pride that the child is so self-aware that he is confident enough in his identity to divulge the news. You are also proud of your child for coming out to you.
Don’t Appear to be Overwhelmed
More often, the news may spawn emotions you’ve never dreamed of: disappointment: that the child will not live out your expectations for him/her: initial denial because the divulgement is too much for a parent to bear, fear that the child will get fired from a job just for being gay, or perhaps you’re feeling another common emotion, anger. “Why me?” Why do I have to deal with this? Shame: What do I tell my relatives or his school? Guilt: What did I do to make him gay? (in another blog, I will give suggestions how you can overcome these issues that trip up effective parenting).
If you’re feeling any of these emotions other than relief, pride or acceptance, now is not the time to appear fragile. It’s not about you. Your child needs your help.
What to Say to Your Child’s Coming Out
What should you say to the news? You may only have a split-second to respond even though your son/daughter has thought about what she has just told you for ions. Your child has just shared with you an important aspect of his/her self. He needs your help. Give him the courtesy of 100% of your attention. You want to encourage further discussion.
Ten Points to Cover
1. Start off with a Hug.
2. Thank you for sharing your story with me. It must have been hard for you to tell me. Give him/her a hug. (shows pride and encourages further dialogue).
3. I love you and always will. (Kids want unconditional love and acceptance, So often, they are told it’s not o.k.)
4. How long have you known? (shows interest in their journey to gayness.)
5. Would you like me to discuss this with others? If so, whom? It’s your call. Have you told your sister? Brother? Friends at school? (shows respect for privacy – it’s his or her story).
6. Do you have a boyfriend/girlfriend? Are they out? I’d like to meet them. (shows interest in whom is important in their life and acceptance of their love interests).
7. How do you feel about being gay? Are you accepted at school? (opens up conversation about possible self-hatred or harassment from others).
8. Do you have support groups for your orientation? Gay-Straight Alliance, chat rooms on-line, etc. (Knowledge is Power! Besides your support, your child will obtain further help from LGBT community, particularly from own age group.)
9. I intend to find out more about gay issues now that I know you’re gay. I hope you will educate me as well. (shows open mind and ability to have your child take the lead – this is one area where they will most likely know more than you!)
10. I’m proud that you have the presence at your age to come out. It shows confidence, honesty, and self-awareness. (end on a positive note which encourages ongoing discussion).
When Your Child Is Gay: What You Need To Know
For more detailed advice, see book, co-authored with a mother of a gay son and a psychiatrist, Jonathan L. Tobkes, M.D.