Today is National Grandparents Day. In terms of supporting a family with a GLBTQ child, grandparents can play a major role.Who better than the experienced and enlightened grandparent whose advancing years have mellowed attitudes about everything: “seen and done it all?”
Parents Too Close For Objectivity?
While the parents, like many, may react with fear, disappointment, confusion, and anger over a child’s coming out, the grandparent can not only offer the approval and unconditional love that the child needs, but be a shoulder for the parent who needs time to readjust his/her expectations for his child as well. The hard-wired notions of the child’s future has suddenly been upended. The parent’s hopes are withered.
Maybe because the grandma or grandpa doesn’t live under the same roof as the bewildered parent and spends less time with the grandchild, he doesn’t get involved with day-to-day slugfests about dress nor does he hear the exasperated phrases in the household “It’s Just a Phase! You’re Too Young to Know!” – verbal cyanide for any LGBT child who knows his identity better than anyone.
A Calm Presence
Grandma’s house is not full of tension, stress. It’s a safe haven. The same woman who may have made clothes for you, baked cakes with you, is the one now who continues to hug you and tells you you’re great just the way you are. (Even if a parent has been accepting of his GLBT child’s sexual orientation from the git-go, grandparents can supplement this attitude).
Modern Family Redefined
Generally, the grandparent doesn’t care to try and change the child’s orientation, an unsuccessful tactic that only incites anger, confusion and makes the child feel unloved. Coming clean is a personal necessity, a release of an internal pressure he/she can no longer hide. It’s a compliment that she reveals her true identity.
Even though the grandmother and also the parent grew up in a time when a young woman or could not come out of the closet, unlike the parent, the grandparent usually does not go in the closet when the child announces his sexual orientation.
For unconditional love, the relative with no agenda is often the best, particularly for bruised emotions.
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.