There are two parts to re-balancing family relationships with this powerful change in the family picture:
- The Parent’s Role — finding your own path, keeping your balance, and helping all the children involved, which may include siblings.
- The Child’s Role — learning how to live positively with the challenges of their newly shared identity.
However off-balance you may feel when your child comes out, it’s important to avoid laying your fears and worries on your child. Healthy parenting suggestions include:
Avoid “Venting” to Your Child
It’s essential that your child not become a lightning rod for the many emotions you may feel. Concerns about the future can be heightened now and it’s important not to use your child as a place to work through your emotions. Our page The Journey for Parents has valuable insights into the parent experience and suggestions below offer alternative ways to handle your feelings.
Find Personal Support
- Join a support group such as PFLAG. Local chapters in many areas provide support for families and individuals. Many parents and families have been in your situation, and their experiences and insight can be a tremendous resource.
- Confide in someone you trust, such as a close friend, or a supportive sibling, about what you’re going through. Make sure this person is a positive and encouraging resource.
- Consider counseling. Sometimes the best resource is at arm’s length. A therapist is outside the situation and can provide perspective. Contact your state or local mental health agency for help finding a counselor if you don’t know where to start, or check out online resources such as www.goodtherapy.org or the Therapist Finder at psychologytoday.com. Be sure to ask about their experience with LGBTQ issues.
- Write in a journal. Writing helps you express your feelings, organize your thoughts, and will become a record of your progress over time.
- Practice self-care. Exercise and good health habits are important for your whole family. Be a role model.
Learn all you can about your child’s new identity and the challenges they face. Focus on positive resources and accurate information. Our Resources page has pointers.
- Knowledge reduces fear and worry.
- Learning all you can helps you navigate situations and make decisions with more confidence and compassion.
- Online resources include websites for parents and numerous books (see Resources list).
Listen, Listen, Listen
You need to know what your child is facing. If they can come to you first, they are safer. It may be difficult at first but keeping communication open — primarily through listening — strengthens your understanding and relationship. Practice WAIT — Why Am I Talking.
Help the Family Keep its Balance
- Maintain the ordinary. Keep routines going for school, teams, or extracurricular activities.
- Find opportunities for family participation. Activities you can do with all or part of the family help maintain relationships and normalcy. This can be as simple as movies, athletic events, outings, or service projects.
- Sibling reactions vary greatly. If they need support or education, help them find it.
- If your child is ready for siblings to know, don’t forget to talk with your other children about this change and how they feel about it or how it affects them.
- Brothers or sisters are sometimes the first to know but not always. If it’s news to them they may have many of the emotions you experience and need to work through those.
- Siblings may be embarrassed or fear others will think they are LGBTQ because their brother or sister is.
- It’s important they understand the risks their sibling faces and why family support is essential.
- Share this website with them — it’s a good starting point if they are struggling.
Help Your Child Connect
- Help your child find positive connections with other LGBTQ youth. Isolation leads to feelings of depression and shame. Possible resources:
- School Clubs – many schools have GSA clubs (Gay Straight Alliance/Genders and Sexualities Alliance) that work with a sponsoring teacher and parents to plan events, service projects, and support meetings.
- Online resources from groups such as PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays), GLSEN (focused on LGBTQ issues in K-12) and many others.
- Look for local drop-in or meetup programs. Some communities have church or organization-sponsored after school or social hour resources.
- Find a support group. Organizations such a PFLAG hold meetings for both parents and youth.
Work on the Environment in Your Family and Home
- Learn more about prejudice and discrimination based on such differences as race, sexual orientation, gender identity/expression, and religion.
- Monitor your beliefs about LGBTQ people and how they influence your son or daughter.
- Be a positive role model for your son or daughter on respectful treatment of LGBTQ individuals in your community: teachers, coaches/athletes, neighbors, co-workers and public figures.
- Assume that LGBTQ people are in a group even if they have not identified themselves. This can include parties, meetings, teams, classrooms, or any gathering.
- Stand up for all LGBTQ people – If you hear a painful joke or derogatory comment, push back. If your child hears you, it’s a powerful affirmation. If not, tell them about it anyway. It can mean a lot to know you stand up for them. Examples might be:
- I don’t think that’s funny.
- That comment could hurt someone.
- I disagree.
- That’s a hateful thing to say.