If your child recently came out as LGBTQ, the idea of them dating might make you pretty uncomfortable. And if the very idea makes you feel nervous and awkward, then actually meeting your child’s significant other is probably not something you’re prepared to do.
At SFA, we know how you feel, and those of us with older children have been in your shoes. It’s not easy, so today we’re going to share some strategies and ideas that will help you navigate the process. And who knows, maybe you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
- Get everyone on the same page
First things first. In these situations, open communication is always key. Err on the side of OVER communicating. Talk to your child about their expectations, and be specific. Hugs or handshakes? What does your child call their significant other? (i.e. boyfriend, girlfriend, partner, etc.) How does your child feel about this encounter? Talk to them about how you’re feeling about it. It’s okay to say you’re feeling nervous, that you’re worried about saying the wrong things, etc. If you’re married, how does your spouse feel about it? If you can get all these feelings and expectations out in the open before you actually meet, chances for success are much higher.
- Don’t call their significant other their “friend.”
A lot of parents make the mistake of referring to their child’s partner as their “friend.” This happens to non-LGBTQ people as well and is a reflection of general parental discomfort at the idea of their “baby” being an adult. While perfectly understandable, it’s even more important not to do it for your LGBTQ child because it sends the message that you either don’t approve or don’t take their relationship seriously.
Remember, your child wants you to meet their partner because your approval and love is incredibly important to them. The fact that they’re willing to have this potentially awkward experience means that they value your presence and participation in their life. Try not to take that for granted. So many LGBTQ people are estranged from their families and this type of situation is simply impossible. As hard as this might be for you, the fact that it can happen at all is a blessing.
- Put yourself in their shoes
Do you remember introducing a special someone to your family? How did it go? Were you nervous? What kinds of things did your parent or parents do/say that helped things go well (or make things super awkward)? Did those embarrassing photos from childhood make you laugh or make you want to crawl under the rug? Let your experience guide you with your own child. LGBTQ people have the same kinds of hopes, desires, and challenges in their relationships as straight people, so chances are the things your parents did that made you cringe when they met your partner will also make your child uncomfortable. The same kind, welcoming words that made you feel accepted and loved will also make your child feel accepted and loved.
Your child’s sexual orientation or gender identity doesn’t change who they are. They’re still the same child you’ve always loved.
- Don’t expect it to be perfect
No matter how prepared you feel, odds are high that awkward moments will still happen and that’s totally fine. This is a learning process. If you feel like the whole experience was a bust, you can always try again. This isn’t your only chance. Make sure to check in with your child afterwards and ask how they think it went, how their partner felt, etc. Check in with yourself and your spouse. The following questions can help everyone reflect and think about future encounters:
- What went well?
- What happened that felt uncomfortable or awkward?
- What could be improved for next time?
We hope these ideas will help things go more smoothly when you meet your child’s significant other. For more resources, check out the Relationships and Dating section on our website. You want your child to eventually have a good partner and there’s a lot of practice along the way — for you both.