Denial: Suggestions to Combat It
Your son or daughter just told you that he/she is gay. Shocked, you blurted out:
- It must be a phase you’re going through!
- You’re too young to know!
- How could you be? You were just dating Sally!
- How can you be sure?
- You’re too feminine/masculine to be gay.
Exclamations like these are common for parents who are taken by surprise. They smack of denial. According to Jonathan Tobkes, M.D., a psychiatrist who sees many parents of LGB children in Manhattan, “denial is the most common defense reaction that a person will experience when first confirmed with information suggesting that a child may be gay.”
Heading Towards Acceptance
Ultimately, as a parent, you probably want to arrive at acceptance for your child’s sexual orientation. By to do so, you have to face your denial head-on so it becomes less painful and you are able to face reality. By reexamining your expectations for your child, you become more sensitive to your son’s or daughter’s needs.
Ways to Rid Yourself of Denial
How do you do this? Dr. Tobkes, who teaches and supervises psychiatry residents at the New York-Presbyterian Weill Cornell Medical Center, New York, suggests:
- · Try to find parents who’ve been through similar experiences and talk to them.
- · Reach out to supportive family members and/or friends who will be positive.
- · Try to overcome your misconceptions and stereotypes of GLBT person and replace with realistic models.
- · You may want to consult a therapist. Without knowing or understanding that you’re using denial, it’s hard to break down the defense and come to terms with the reality of the situation.
- · Join a community support group such as Parents of Lesbians & Gays.
The most important steps for working through your denial involve direct and honest conversation with your child and other family members. If you aren’t used to starting important conversations within your family, a therapist can help you by providing you with the appropriate language.
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.
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