You know what the best thing about 2021 was? That it ended…
Just kidding. We imagine that 2021 has its ups and downs for you as it did for us here at Strong Family Alliance. But the pandemic has made everything especially challenging, so it’s kind of a relief to say goodbye to 2021. And there’s something exciting and inspiring about the beginning of a new year, full of possibilities. It gives us a great opportunity to do a reset and evaluate how things are going.
If your child came out to you in 2021, maybe you’re feeling great about how you’ve handled it, or maybe you think you need to do better. Either way, there’s always room for improvement, so we’re sharing these 5 New Year’s resolutions that will make your family stronger than ever.
- Practice gratitude
Study after study shows the importance of expressing gratitude in our everyday lives. It can make you feel happier, reduce stress, improve your relationships… The list goes on! That’s why it’s at the top of OUR list as a great tool to help your family after your child comes out as LGBTQ.
One great way to incorporate gratitude into your family life is to have a ritual of talking about what you’re thankful for. You can do this at dinner, breakfast, lunch, on the way to school, whenever! Just go around to each family member present and ask them what they’re feeling grateful for that day.
It’s important to balance that by also bringing up experiences of struggle and sadness. If you only talk about the positive, you miss opportunities to learn about your child (and for them to learn about you!) There’s no point in sugarcoating it, life is really hard sometimes, especially for LGBTQ youth. Give them space to talk about it.
- Eat meals together
This one doesn’t need much explaining, it’s one of those things that parents get beat over the head with as a way to promote family togetherness because, again, many studies show that it is very beneficial (1).
We’re not including this on our list to make you feel guilty if you don’t do it. Instead, think of it as a friendly reminder to try to sit down with your kids for meals when you can. Once a week, twice a week, whatever is possible for you.
- Learn about LGBTQ issues as a family
Watch TV shows, movies, or documentaries together that feature LGBTQ issues and/or characters. Common Sense Media has a great list that’s organized by age level. Bring books into the house about coming out, parenting an LGBTQ child, etc. You can find our curated list of recommended books here.
Legislation that has to do with LGBTQ issues is all over the news, so try to get informed and find out how it could affect your family. The Human Rights Campaign has a list of pro-LGBTQ legislation that you can learn more about here.
- Practice listening to each other
As parents, we’re used to being in charge. We like to have the answers. We think we know our child better than anyone else. It can be tempting to offer a lot of advice to your child after they come out to you. Maybe you think they’re just confused or hormonal. Try to resist the urge to find the “truth,” and instead just listen to what they’re telling you. Be empathetic, open, and accepting.
- Unplug more
These days our lives revolve around our phones, for better or worse. They’re convenient and our dependence on them is a reality. But it’s still possible (and important!) to unplug and connect with each other face-to-face.
A recent study in the journal of Environment and Behavior suggests that just having your phone sitting on the table or in your hand during a conversation reduces the quality of your interaction (2). If you’re already having trouble connecting with your LGBTQ child, you don’t need that extra distraction.
Try instituting a “no phones at the table” rule for mealtimes, or having a screen-free weekend every once in a while. No doubt your family will grumble about it, but it’s worth it.
We hope some of these ideas will help your family grow together and be stronger than ever in 2022. Happy New Year from all of us at Strong Family Alliance!