Maybe you’ve had an inkling for a while, or maybe it’s come out of the blue, but your child coming out is a monumental moment for them. Knowing how to respond can make a huge difference to their wellbeing.
Despite society making major headway in supporting those who come out as gay, it’s always a major step when a child comes out to their parents. Not only will they have had to go through the process of understanding and accepting their sexual orientation, but they now have to brave potential parental rejection or judgement from their family.
So if your child tells you that they are gay, how can you handle it?
The key is, that even if you’re uncomfortable or uneasy with your child coming out, they need to know that you love and support them no matter what. This knowledge gives your child a foundation of acceptance and love that will help them overcome potential issues. Unfortunately, mental health issues are more common in those who come out, so knowing they have your support is vital.
Is this just a phase?
You may suspect your child may change their mind later on, or you’re struggling to accept their new identity. Either way, having the courage to talk about their feelings and communicate with you was a big step. Be sure to listen openly and be supportive. Never question if this is ‘just a phase’- it may make them feel that their feelings aren’t being taken seriously.
Don’t shut your child down
You may find it hard to hear when your child discloses that they are gay. This might be either because of personal feelings or because of religion. However, even if you don’t fully understand your child’s life they have chosen to come to you, and are hoping for acceptance and understanding.
Try to recognise the courage that it took for them to open up, and listen to what they have to say.
Even if you had suspicions, avoid saying things like ‘I always knew’ or ‘I’m not surprised’. Comments of this nature can belittle the struggle that your child may have gone through to reach this point.
Without coming across like you’re interrogating them, you can ask gentle questions. These might include ‘do you want the rest of the family to know yet?’ or ‘will you be open about their sexuality at school?’. They may not know the answers to these questions yet, but asking them shows interest and support from you.
Also, you can directly ask how best you can support them. They may merely want you to be a listening ear, but the importance of knowing you are there cannot be underestimated.
Thank them for coming to you
Acknowledge the strength and courage it took for your child to come out to you. This is likely to be a huge step in their lives and was not taken lightly. Thank them for coming to you and tell them you love them, and let them know that they can always talk to you.