When our kids are born we have so many hopes and dreams for them. We formulate a vision in our minds of the kind of life they might have .We want them to be healthy, happy, and for the most part, expect that they’ll make us grandparents one day and carry on our family line. When your son or daughter comes out as gay it can really be a shock. While some parents may suspect their child is gay, when they do come out to you and confirm it, there are a lot of conflicting emotions. So, how do you as parents stay connected to your gay kids? Our LGBTQ kids need the same love and parental guidance as our hetero kids do, and even more empathy and compassion in some cases. Here’s why.
Coming out is scary
Coming out carries fear, fear of rejection and loss for many gay kids. It can be one of the scariest experiences of a kid’s life. Even adults who’ve been a living double life while closeted stay in this unpleasant reality due to fear. The statistics on LGBT youth are startling. They make up approximately 40% of all young people experiencing homelessness. LGBT youth are about 7% of the total youth population so that’s a disturbing percentage. The Suicide Prevention Resource Center has estimated that between 30-40% of LGBT youth has attempted suicide. Since sexual orientation is often not known, completed youth suicide numbers are unavailable but it’s clear that numbers are underreported. Imagine how many of these could have been prevented had parents and family given love, compassion and support to and most importantly connection to their kids? Please accept this information from your child without judgement and in no way suggest to them that what they’re feeling is abnormal or a phase they’ll get over. Sexual orientation is not a mental illness.
Your Kids Need You
Your children never stop being your children. No matter how old they get they still need your love, support and approval. They need your love more than ever without criticism or judgement. Even if you don’t approve of their life choices, you are still a parent. Your child needs that connection to you; especially if they’re struggling with life decisions such as how to navigate this world as an LGBT person.
Ways to stay connected
- Be Compassionate: Even if you don’t feel comfortable with the situation, realize how much trust and courage it took for your son or daughter to come out to you and be gentle with their emotions. Try not to react out of proportion to the issue. Be kind. Remember that sexuality is only a small part of who they are, and they trust you enough to share this with you.
- Be Honest: You can say you’re unhappy or don’t understand their orientation, but don’t judge them for being true to themselves. Be honest and patient. Realize that this is the same child you gave life to, nurtured and raised. The bond you have is strong and this issue of their sexuality is not going to break it. Your child is going to respect you for being honest and treating them fairly.
- Give Parental Advice: Help them to make good decisions on health issues, safe sex and relationships the same way you would your straight kids. Caution them that they’re going to meet with discrimination and even hate and violence, so teach them how to respond to that. Let them know that you’re still their parent and they can come to you for advice with problems or questions. If you don’t know what advice to give, there are resources available such as http://www.familleslgbt.org , www.glaad.org and https://gaycenter.org/family-youth/family.
- Keep In Touch with your adult children: Keep the lines of communication open with your gay kids. Respect their space when they need it and let them know that they can always reach out to you the same as with your straight kids. Even if you don’t agree with their decisions, you have to give them room to fail and be ready to support them as they work through tough times. You can help them to make better choices in the future if you are there to support them and love them through the consequences for their mistakes.
- Be inclusive: In the same way that you’d invite your straight son’s girlfriend to Thanksgiving dinner, you should also include your lesbian daughter’s girlfriend. Make your home the place where your teens can invite their gay friends without fear of judgement or rejection. You’ll find that these kids are just kids and their sexual orientation is not what defines them. You just might learn something that will make you feel even closer to your gay kids.
In a time when gay kids are facing discrimination and even violence out on the streets, you can make your home a safe haven where your gay kids can feel secure, loved and accepted as all young people should. Keeping that bond and communication with your kids ensures that no matter what happens in life, you and your adult children will be close for the rest of your life. You can help your young person to make good choices and to grow to be a compassionate and thoughtful adult who loves and respects him/herself and others. Isn’t that what every parent wants?