By Jana Angeles
If your child has recently come out as a member of LGBTQ+ community, you’re not alone! Many parents around the world have witnessed their child come out to them and we understand how difficult that must be at such a young age. Children begin to build their identity and people don’t realise how complex a person’s gender can be. For many of us, identifying as male or female is easy but for others, it isn’t at all. Sexuality is also something that isn’t black and white either.
It’s important that we learn to love and support our children who have come out to us. For them, it’s a big milestone to identify with this community. Here are some of our top ten tips on what to do when your child has identified themselves as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.
1. Don’t Ignore It
Your child coming out to you is a difficult process and choosing to ignore it can only make them feel worse. Understand that they are coming from a place of love and sharing an important part of themselves that they identify with. It’s okay to have conflicting feelings over the news and not fully accept the situation just yet. From coming out, your child has opened a new world; a world where you have lots to learn from their identity. Appreciate the courage it took for them to tell you because this shows how much they trust you!
2. Never Say, “I Always Knew”
You’ve probably always had a feeling your child was different from all their other peers, and when parents have an “inkling”, they’re normally right about it. If your child chooses to tell you they are either gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, never tell them that you “always knew”. Because coming out is such a huge step for them, it’s supposed to feel liberating that they can finally share something they’ve kept hidden. Letting them know you always knew their sexual identity can make the event anticlimactic and less freeing for them.
3. Learn To Ask Questions
Although the Internet has numerous sources on the LGBTQ+ community, your best and main one should be your child. Asking them questions on their sexuality can help you understand them, especially if you aren’t too familiar with their identity. Kids are always wondering about themselves on a daily so asking them relevant things can be beneficial for their own learning too.
Always take into consideration the sensitivity of the topic and only ask them questions they are comfortable in answering. Don’t pressure your child and interrogate them with questions that insult their identity or seem condescending. Besides websites, you can also look into books and read more about raising your LGBTQ child. Unconditional: A Guide to Loving and Supporting Your LGBTQ Child by Telaina Eriksen is a good book that gives parents support for their child, especially when going through the struggles of a less accepting society.
4. Avoid Making Assumptions
The one tip in raising an LGBTQ child is to never assume anything. Just because they identify with this community, doesn’t necessarily make them fit into any sort of stereotype media has portrayed in Film and TV. The last thing you want is to upset your child because of something you assumed all LGBTQ children have done. Your child is different and unique, just like anybody else. Being part of the LGBTQ+ community is only part of their identity, not all of it.
5. Discuss If They’re Comfortable With Coming Out To Others
Although you have authority over your LGBTQ child, you must do your best to respect their wishes especially if they have told you they are not comfortable in discussing their identity to others. Members of your immediate family may start asking questions but learn how to handle them gracefully. Say things like, “Please respect my child’s wishes. I am not able to answer those questions at this present time” or “I have to respectfully decline your question because it doesn’t feel right if it comes from me.”
6. Talk About Safe Sex
This is up to your discretion but if your child has reached the appropriate age of maturity, discuss the topic of Safe Sex. It’s important that they are aware of their risk in contracting Sexually-Transmitted Diseases and that they know the options of contraception. Receiving any sort of sex education classes can be beneficial for your child.
7. Respect Their Gender
You may find that your daughter wants to wear a suit or your son wanting to wear a dress, it’s important to respect their decision and never coerce them into anything that insults their identity. Through this journey of theirs, you may learn they want to try new things when it comes to their looks and that they don’t specifically identify with only one gender. Although most parents might not find this easy, giving them the freedom of choice is the best option you have for your LGBTQ+ child.
8. Don’t Put The Blame On Anybody Else
Human beings are always going to be complex individuals and no matter our gender or sexuality, we battle through so many worlds within us. For your child identifying as a member of the LGBTQ+ is nobody’s fault and you should avoid blaming a family member, a friend they regularly hang out with or yourself. There are so many factors to consider when it comes to their identity and like us, a number of experiences has helped shaped them for who they are today.
9. Avoid Asking About Their Queer Identity Before They Have Even Come Out To You
Getting back to the point addressed in number four, assuming anything can only make things worse. Coming out is a huge deal for your child and if you are already aware of their LGBTQ+ identity, don’t say anything about it. Putting them on the spot can make them feel extremely uncomfortable and can discourage them from coming out. Let them prepare to do this on their own. It is something even us parents can’t help them with.
10. Remind Them That They Are Loved
It’s tough being an individual within the LGBTQ+ community and the reality is, your child will be facing some challenging obstacles ahead of them. There will be moments in their life where they will come across close-minded individuals who will be less accepting of their identity. They will also be at high-risk of bullying in schools too. It’s important that we remind ourselves that this is our child and they need our unconditional love and support. We need to be there in their darkest moments and to always help them feel encouraged in some capacity. Even if we struggle in understanding them, reminding them that they are loved once can help them get through the pain and heartbreak of people less accepting of them.