Every family has values and rules, and it’s important to realize these do not necessarily change when their child comes out. Parents sometimes think they should handle things differently for an LGBTQ child, but that is not always true. Two ideas to keep in mind:
- How would you normally handle friendships, dating, or activities?
- How have you handled them with other children at home?
Play by the usual family rules.
As much as possible, take the LGBTQ aspect out of the decisions you make. It can be helpful to ask yourself questions like, “If my daughter were dating a boy, how would I handle this?” Or, “If my son were dating a girl, how would I handle this?” This can help ground you in the usual way your family addresses dating. This means curfews, acceptable places to go, permissions required, and responsibility can be consistent for everyone.
For non-romantic relationships, handle those similarly as well. Your child may have come out to some friends and not others. That is their choice. Allow normal school and social activities, friendships, and teams. If your child has a special interest like music, sports, academics, or animals, help them pursue it. These can help keep balance and perspective in your child’s life.
Don’t assume every relationship is romantic or sexual.
Like everyone else, LGBTQ youth have friends that range from mere acquaintances to friendships to crushes. Be sure to leave room for a wide mix of relationships for your child, and don’t assume every friendship is romantic. Avoid assumptions and just ask your child about friendships as you usually would. This is part of keeping communication open and helps keep their romantic interests from being an unspoken secret in the family.
Be prepared for heartache.
A common fear for parents is the loneliness their child may face in the struggle to find a loving partner. While this may be a risk, their process is the same as any young person.
Finding a good partner or relationship is a challenge for everyone. Your child will be attracted to others who may or may not feel the same. He or she may face rejection, breakups, or heartache. There will be dates of whom you approve and others you dread. You may feel regret when a relationship ends for your child because you liked that person, or relief because you didn’t care for them at all.
These are all normal events in young lives and are no different for LGBTQ lives. As a parent, you can be an advisor, an advocate, a comfort in loss, and an encourager in need — but you can’t keep these normal events from occurring. Let them find their path. Your best role is to be a safe, supportive resource as they work their way through life.
Help them find their community of people.
If possible, help your child find safe groups where they can meet or connect with other LGBTQ youth. Isolation leads to loneliness and despair. See our Resources list for possibilities, and support your child in joining or participating in accepting groups. Find a trusted LGBTQ adult that your family can get to know as a positive role model.
Remember this is a community issue, not just a personal one. Such connections should not all be LGBTQ focused. For instance, if you are active in a church that is not accepting of LGBTQ people, it’s important to find a faith community that is and involve your family there. The same is true of sport teams, schools, clubs, or community activities. Finding connections where your child is accepted can also provide a supportive adult community for you.
Welcome your child’s friends.
It can be very comforting to know and meet your child’s friends. Providing a place for popcorn and movies or other get together activities is a great way to do so. You could host a club meeting, organize a team barbecue, or serve as a school supporter for any club or activity your child enjoys. Even something as simple as providing refreshments at a school event gives you a chance to put names to faces and get know his/her friends better.
An unexpected thing can sometimes occur: you become a trusted adult. If your child’s friend is not out to their own family, you may find they feel attached to you. An accepting adult may be new and hopeful to them. Be accepting, but let them find their own path with their family. If they have not come out to their family, it may not be safe for them, and coming out must always be the individual’s choice.