If your child recently came out to you as LGBTQ, you may be wondering who else they told and how they’re dealing with the coming out process. For students who are newly out, going back to school can be an intimidating and confusing time and they’ll need your love and support more than ever. Today, we want to share some insights that can help you figure out what your role as a parent should be as your child navigates the muddy waters of coming out at school.
Follow their lead
One of the most important things about providing good support for your LGBTQ child is to make sure that you’re not trying to control their journey. It’s natural to feel protective, worried, and fearful. You’ll probably want to do whatever you can to minimize any problems they’ll face out in the world. If you act on those feelings, however, you run the risk of trying to do things your way instead of listening to their desires and needs. At the end of the day, this is their life and you have to give them the freedom to make their own decisions about coming out. That doesn’t mean, however, that you don’t have a role to play. Asking open-ended, thoughtful questions and being an empathetic and active listener can help your child figure out how to come out at school, if at all.
Here are some examples:
- How are you feeling about coming out at school?
- Does anyone at school know? Is there anyone at school that you want to tell?
- Is there anything I can do to make you feel more comfortable at school?
- Do you feel safe there? If not, what can we do so that you do feel safe?
You might assume your child wants to come out at school, but that isn’t necessarily the case. Coming out as LGBTQ is an individual journey and no two paths will be the same, which is why it’s so important to talk to your child and make sure you’re on the same page.
Find and share resources
Your child is the expert on their identity and their experience at school, but they may not be aware of the resources that are available to them. That’s where you come in. The SFA website is a great place to start (as you’re probably already aware), and your child’s school may have some more specific information available for LGBTQ students and their families.
Try to find out if there are LGBTQ student organizations or clubs that your child could join. If they’re not ready for that, that’s okay! Just knowing that they exist may help your child feel more at ease. If there aren’t any at the school itself, there may be one in your town or city that is geared towards students. It’s also a great idea to find out about any anti-bullying policies in place at the school and share that info with your child.
Be patient and keep the lines of communication open
Remember that the process of coming out is emotionally draining for your child, even if everyone they confide in is 100% supportive. If you feel excited that they’re finally opening up and embracing who they are, that’s wonderful! Just let them take their time and don’t try to rush them into telling everyone.
On the flip side, if you’re feeling nervous about how people will react at school and you’re filled with doubt and worry, that’s okay too. But don’t counsel your child to keep their identity to themselves because of these fears. A study from the University of Arizona found that LGBTQ students who came out at school had higher self-esteem and lower rates of depression than students who didn’t.
If you’re reading this article, you’re already taking the right steps towards being a loving and supportive presence for your child as they head back to school. There are so many more amazing resources on our website and our Parent Guide is a great place to start. SFA is here for you so you can be there for your LGBTQ child.
https://parents.au.reachout.com/skills-to-build/wellbeing/things-to-try-sexuality/coming-out-at-school – Tips for parents to help their child come out at school
https://www.accreditedschoolsonline.org/resources/coming-out-of-the-closet/ – General coming out advice + coming out at school. Also gives resources for young LGBT+ teens to reach out to.