You don’t want to be blindsided when your child comes out to you. Nor do you want to yell at your child (“you can’t be!”) or doubt his revelation ( “it’s just a phase!”). The Family Acceptance Project at San Francisco State reports that most coming outs do not go well because parents are not prepared for the news that jars with the expectations they have had for their child since birth or even before in our binary world.
The most common defense mechanism for parents is denial. What could be worse for a child to hear that the parent knows best about the sexual orientation that he/she has felt? Who would know better than the child?
Even if you are caught off-guard, your child has mustered up his courage to share this important part of his self, knowing that he probably is disappointing you, so try to be understanding even if it will take you awhile to “wrap your head around” this new identity.
What should you say? Here are 5 possibilities that connote unconditional love:
· We love you and support you. ( A hug is always appreciated.)
· We are pleased that you felt comfortable enough with us to share this important aspect of your self. Thank you for trusting us.
· Who else knows? Classmates? Best friends? How have they reacted?
· How do you envision your future? How has being gay affected your life?
· Who haven’t you told yet, and what is your plan? Remember that it is your child’s story and he/she has a right to privacy.
It’s o.k. to say to your child that it may take awhile for you to adjust fully, but that you will, with his help and others as well.
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.