So your child has “Come out”? You may be feeling a lot of feelings right now, anger, confusion, upset and so on. Whether your child comes out as gay, bisexual, nonbinary or transgender, it can be a impactful moment for everyone involved.This experience can be surprising and may leave you will a lot of feelings to process. Even parents who are allies of the LGBTQIA+ community may struggle at first to express their feelings in a helpful way, or feel a sense of loss for the future they have imagined for their child. However while this may be difficult I encourage you to remember, your child “Coming out” means this may be the first time your child feels comfortable enough to share with you who they truly identify as. This moment is a gift and can lead to a beautiful connection between you and your child even if it doesn’t feel like it right now. So let’s discuss how we get there.
As you begin to move through this new parenting journey with your child, it is important to remember the emotions you may be feeling are likely ones your child has also been experiencing and most likely for a much longer time. Some of the feelings your child may have been experiencing before coming are guilt, denial, fear of rejection, depression and uncertainty. These feelings are all normal.
Your child coming out is an opportunity where you can help your child feel things they may have never thought they could: unconditional love, acceptance, pride, and hope for the future. Below are some helpful tips in order to help you feel more comfortable in your childs new identity as well as ways for you to show your queer child support.
What is the LGBTQIA+ Community?
One of the first things you can do to support your child is to learn about their community. It can be helpful to learn common terms in the queer community in order to communicate properly while being respectful. So what does LGBTQIA+ stand for?
Queer or Questioning;
Asexual or Ally; and,
And a spectrum of other identities and orientations are represented by the +.
It is important to remember that a person does not choose to be gay. A person’s sexual orientation and gender identity is natural instinct, and not a result of parenting or other outside influences. This has also been proven through both medical and scientific research.
Research has shown that children begin to develop a sense of their gender orientation as early as preschool or kindergarten.This means our child can know who they are by the earliest age of 5 years old. At this time it is not uncommon to start seeing signs of your child realizing they are “different.” It is important at this time to listen to your child without judgment or reservation no matter what age they come out at. Your child may also express feelings surrounding the concept of them questioning their sexuality or gender. I know this may be difficult but it is important to remember this is not just a phase, but likely something your child has been struggling to understand from a very young age.
This process can be confusing and your child may move through multiple identities throughout this process, however it is crucial to support your child through all these changes as this can lead to resentment, guilt, depression and so on from your child in the future. Some children may never go through a process of multiple identities, there is no right or wrong way for your child to discover who they are. There is no specific way someone who identifies as a part of the community should look or act.
Let’s talk Support!
Unfortunately even though we are beginning to live in a world more accepting of the LGBTQIA+ community many people still view hetro relationships as the standard. Due to this, there has been a long history of violence and hateful treatment of LGBTQIA+ individuals. In many communities and religious groups to this day, people who are openly queer are unwelcome.
School-age children who identify as queer are at-risk for bullying and now with social media much of this harassment has moved to online. Teens who are struggling to understand and accept their LGBTQIA+ identity without support from loved ones face a unique set of challenges.
According to research done by the Trevor Project:
- Nearly half of LGBTQ youth (48%) reported engaging in self-harm in the past year.
- 40% of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year.
- 1 in 3 LGBTQ youth reported being physically threatened or harmed at some point because of their LGBTQ identity.
Due to this, mental health concerns for teens in the LGBTQ community are something that must be acknowledged. However, your support and unconditional love can drastically improve a child in this position’s mental health.
In other words: Offering your support and love can be one of the easiest and most powerful ways you can help your child feel more comfortable through this journey.
Tips on How to Show Support to an LGBTQ Loved One:
- Let the love show!
Words of affirmations are one of the easiest ways to help your child feel supported. The words “I love you” is a simple way to help your child feel accepted no matter their identity. While this experience can be overwhelming and leave you with many complex emotions, do not underestimate the importance of reminding your child they are loved. While you can’t turn back time and undo pain you have created by making negative/ thoughtless remarks, putting your best foot forward letting your child know you love them can do wonders.
- Make Home feel like a safe haven.
Home should be a place where everyone in the family feels safe, respected and supported. Some ways you can make your LGBTQIA+ child feel happy at home is by:
- Using their identified pronouns, or preferred name
- Eliminating the use of slurs and harmful language
- Calling out bias, discrimination, and hate speech, and refusing to allow this behavior from guests or other family members
- Be an advocate and an ally.
Just like any other child it is your job as a parent to be an advocate for your child’s needs. Pay attention to warning signs of a need for mental health support. If you suspect or your child has told you they are being bullied make sure to discuss with your child, a teacher and the school on ways you can make your child’s experiences away from you more comfortable.Make sure to stay on top of issues like this.
- Educate yourself.
Take some time to learn about the LGBTQIA+ community even if you aren’t yet fully comfortable or supportive of this experience, education can help you begin to get there.Often we reject things we do not understand, learning more about your child’s new community may give you the ability to meet your child where they are. If your religious beliefs or cultural beliefs are part of why you are struggling to supporting the queer community, i encourage you to realize we can offer love and support even when we do not agree fully with the actions of someone and their life.
As I have continually stated throughout this blog, THIS IS NOT EASY, at times you will feel overwhelmed, lost, confused and so many other emotions. Due to this it is important to also take care of you here, consider seeking mental health support not just for your child but also for you. Seek out support groups, it can be helpful to speak to other parents also moving through this experience. Family therapy with your child can also be helpful in order to move through whatever heavy feelings may be coming up for both of you with a trained professional.
So Where Can I Find Therapy?
If you or your child are looking for LGBTQIA+ affirming counseling, Suffolk Family therapy is a wonderful resource. We offer various types of therapy such as Art therapy, EMDR, Family Therapy, Trauma Therapy, Telehealth and so many other resources. Our culturally competent staff are trained to provide all our clients the tools to navigate through whatever experiences they are going through. We want to help you not only to feel good in your skin but to also feel supported and heard throughout this journey.
Read more about our clinicians taking on new clients here or call us at 631-503-1539 to speak with one of the members of our team!
We are wishing you a beautiful experience of discovering the beauty that is your child and we hope to offer you support in whatever way we can!
-Jillian Martino, CAT-LP