Let’s face it, this isn’t the “most wonderful time of the year” for a lot of LGBTQ people and their families. Holidays can be a joyful and beautiful time of family togetherness, but if you’re a parent struggling with the news that your child is LGBTQ, this season can be overwhelming. Today we’ll share some information and strategies on how to make the most of the holidays with your family this year. For Christians, Christmas is a reminder of God’s steadfast love for all people, including LGBTQ families and their children, and that God lives in all of us, no exceptions.
You can’t pour from an empty cup
Our first piece of advice is to take a deep breath. And another. Finding out your child is LGBTQ is a major life event and can be a huge stressor, especially for religious and/or conservative parents. Adding that to the normal holiday-related hustle and bustle, it’s important to take a little time to allow yourself to process the information and do something to ease your own stress and anxiety. The more relaxed and calm you feel, the better equipped you’ll be to help your family. Here are some ideas:
- If you’re the praying type, pray for patience, empathy, and the ability to be present for your family during the holidays.
- Get some exercise – even a 10-minute walk releases endorphins, which trigger positive feelings in your body.
- Try some deep breathing exercises. These simple, easy techniques can make a surprisingly big difference in your stress levels. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/decrease-stress-by-using-your-breath/art-20267197
Be the kind of home that welcomes all of God’s children
Many LGBTQ people struggle with the holidays because of difficult family relationships. Some have been kicked out of their homes after they come out to their parents and are estranged from their families, making Christmastime especially painful. Others dread spending more time at home and having to listen to homophobic and anti-LGBTQ comments from family members.
Even for LGBTQ people who haven’t been rejected outright by their families, knowing they aren’t fully accepted and loved for who they are is hurtful. In a 2018 study, only 24% of LGBTQ people report that they can “definitely” be themselves at home (1).
At SFA we say this again and again: family acceptance of a child’s LGBTQ identity is one of the most important factors in preventing suicide, depression, and substance abuse. As a parent, you have a lot of power in this situation. We know you love your child. Don’t you want them to feel safe and happy in their family home during the holidays? The world can be a harsh place for LGBTQ youth, so make your home their shelter in the storm. Here are some ideas:
- If you have young children, read them books that have a positive message about being yourself and being accepted. Here’s a great starter list. That sets the tone for what kind of family and household you strive to be.
- Tell your child you love them unconditionally. Say it often!
- Suggest watching a movie or a show that portrays LGBTQ characters in a positive light. Check out this extensive list from Common Sense Media.
- Encourage love and kindness, banish harmful comments. If you have a relative who often says negative things about gay people, talk to them before they come over and explain why and how you’re going to avoid that kind of speech this year. We know these are uncomfortable conversations, but it’s worth it to protect your child and make them feel welcome and safe in their own home. For more tips about speaking up for your child, check out last month’s blog post:
We hope today’s post will help make your holiday season a little more merry and bright. From all of us at Strong Family Alliance, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!