In my last post, I shared tips on what NOT to say to your gay child after he/she has come out – you know, stuff they would NOT want to hear. But suppose, during your child’s revelation, you felt threatened and scarred, and like a frightened animal, lashed out – not with biting or violent attacks, but with insensitive hurtful remarks?
You probably left the room and the conversation in a huff. If so, it’s time for you, the parent, to set things right with your child. You may have been unprepared for his coming out and blown your cool, but you can prepare yourself this time for talks to recover. One of the gifts of parenting is that you can always readdress a situation gone badly.
Here are some examples of what you can say and do to reconcile:
1. You know you really threw me off when you told me you were gay (lesbian, bisexual), I wasn’t expecting it. So, I acted badly. I apologize for my past insensitivities and hope you will forgive me. I needed time to digest the news.
2. Thanks for sharing it with me. It really took a lot of courage for you to tell me/us. I’m sure you felt vulnerable and yet had the strength and self-esteem to come out.
3. I am honored that you felt the need to make us/me an important part of his/her future. You must want us as part of your life or we wouldn’t have been told.
4. I love you no matter what and I’m still your parent. Nothing will change between you and I. We will always support you.
5. I will always regard you as my son, daughter who is kind, funny, smart. (or substitute your own applicable adjectives).You haven’t changed.
6. It’s o.k. to admit that you don’t have all the answers. Remind him that you might need help while you are trying to understand. You may have questions that you hope aren’t offensive to him/her. Ask for his patience.
7. However, don’t deal with your issues in front of your child and make him feel guilty. You may feel overwhelmed, but probably not as much as your child who deals with his gayness on a day-to-day basis. There is support for parents which will allow you to rethink your attitudes so that you can put your child’s health and well-being ahead of your own moral/religious beliefs.
8. Listen, listen, listen to his concerns and ask how you can best support him/her. You want to encourage an ongoing dialogue, not a one-time conversation.
9. Just as important as what you say is the ambience in which you converse. Don’t have any distractions like cell phones, television, computers on.
10. Don’t talk when you’re tired, rushed to go somewhere, preparing dinner. Make time to talk.
11. Watch your body language. Eye contact is important.
12. Stay calm. Make sure you are both cooled down before speaking. If not, then suggest another time.
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.