When you find out that your child identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or is questioning their identity, it may come as a big surprise or even an unwanted shock. Other parents may long have suspected that their child may not be heterosexual or that they may come to question their gender later in life.
Whether your child has come out to you, or is simply questioning their sexuality or gender, there are some simple ways you can support them through the process.
Here we will look at supporting your LGBTQ child and ways to look after your own emotional well-being.
Supporting Your LGBTQ Child
Whether your child identifying as LGBTQ always seemed likely or has come as a big shock, this is the moment when your child most needs you to step up. Here are our simple tips to help you manage the coming days, weeks, and months well.
Take Note of Your Emotions
When your child comes out, you will of course have your own feelings to deal with. Whether they are a child, teenager or adult, when they come out to you, you may suddenly wonder if this will affect the future you imagined for them.
Many parents question whether their child will still find a loving partner, have children, or be able to have a successful career. It is OK to have these feelings, and it is important to work through them with your partner, a trusted friend, or a therapist.
Dealing with any worries, and realizing that your child is still the same person they always were, will allow you to be the best parent you can be to your child.
Show Love and Support
Even if you are struggling with personal feelings of sadness, anxiety, fear, or confusion, when it comes to your child, you need to show them that you still love them and will continue to support them. It can take extreme bravery to come out, so your child may need to be reassured that your love for them remains unconditional.
If you are unsure how to react, ask your child what they need. Children often have a good idea of what they need you to do to make them feel accepted or supported.
After your child has come out, it is important to keep the conversation between you going. They may be too shy or embarrassed to raise the topic with you again, but gentle prompts such as asking how they are feeling can show them that you haven’t dismissed or forgotten about their identity. In this way, they will also see that you value what they have told you.
If there are any issues your child wants to discuss, initiating regular conversations gives them an easy way to explore their feelings with you. When your child does talk to you, listen without interrupting them and avoid arguing or disagreeing. Your child is telling you something important, and even if you don’t agree with it, you need to listen. Talking in this open manner can help to keep the two of you connected and close.
Parents who had no trouble speaking to their other children about healthy relationships, safe sex, and puberty may suddenly struggle to do the same for their LGBTQ child.
Try to swallow any discomfort you might feel in talking to your child about these important topics. Showing them that you value their health and emotional well-being is also a way of demonstrating your acceptance of them as an individual. If you are unsure how to begin, try searching for online resources via PFLAG or a similar support group.
Talk about LGBTQ celebrities, and find some examples of famous healthy relationships to share with them. Your child being aware of same sex couples in long term relationships may help them to see that they, too, can look forward to a healthy, loving relationship in future.
It is also important that you protect your child against any prejudice they might experience within the wider family or friendship groups. Stand up for your child should they experience any acts of discrimination, and make sure they know you will champion them no matter what.
Include the School
Some parents find it helpful to speak to their child’s school. Adolescence can be a time of emotional turmoil for many, and coming to terms with sexuality or identity can add to this. Teachers or counselors who are aware of the potential for an emotional upset are better prepared to help a child manage their emotions if needed.
It is particularly important to speak to your child’s school if you have any concerns about bullying occurring as a result of your child’s identity. Schools should take a zero-tolerance attitude towards bullying of any kind, including that based on homophobia, transphobia, or prejudice.
Think about Therapy
Some children will breeze through identifying as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or questioning their identity. For others, the process may be harder and take longer. Whether your child appears to be struggling or not, it is worth asking if they would like to speak to someone about their feelings.
A trusted family member or a friend may be able to offer your child the space to talk about their experiences or emotions. If this doesn’t feel appropriate, a specialist children’s therapist will give your child the opportunity to speak freely, without judgement, and in confidence.
Some schools have a therapist or counselor on site whom you could request a referral to.
Take Care of your Mental Health
Supporting your child as they discover their identity can take its toll on your mental health, too. It is difficult to support someone else if your own emotions are running wild. Be sure to make time to work through your own feelings, too.
Speak to your partner, a trusted friend or relative to get valuable feedback on your feelings. Sometimes just having the space to share your feelings is all you need.
If you are still struggling emotionally, you could try purchasing a new journal to get your feelings out somewhere where there will not be any judgement. Writing can be very cathartic. If writing isn’t your thing, draw or paint a picture to express your feelings more visually, or take a long walk to help clear your mind.
Search for non-fiction titles that relay other people’s experiences of supporting an LGBTQ child. This may help you understand how to support both yourself and your child.
If you feel overwhelmed by emotions, it is also vital to invest in your own therapy sessions. Online therapy could offer you the space to explore and reflect on your feelings, at family-friendly times to suit you.
Whether it comes as a surprise or not, supporting your LGBTQ child is vitally important. Put aside your own feelings whilst you support them, making sure that they know they are loved regardless of their sexuality or gender identity.
However, be sure to take care of your own mental health, too. Reach out to family, friends, support groups or an online therapist to work through your own emotions and feelings, so that you are in a strong position to be your child’s greatest ally.
Hannah England is a freelance copywriter with a medical degree. After working as a doctor for several years, she now writes medical and well-being articles. Hannah endeavors to empower people by providing informative content that allows them to make healthy choices for improved physical and mental health. Hannah is part of the LGBT+ community and an inclusion expert, allowing her to write copy that is relevant to everyone, regardless of sexual orientation, gender, or identity. Hannah lives in a village in the South West of England.Read more