How Can You Make it Easier for Your Child to Come Out?
What do you do if you suspect your child might be LGBTI? That is, that they are attracted to people of the same gender, or to both genders, or their own gender identity differs from how they are labelled? How do you help them feel comfortable about telling you?
Most of the tips below apply to any child, no matter their sexual orientation: you don’t want to make assumptions or impose social expectations on any of your child’s preferences: sexual or otherwise. You want them to feel safe and able to express their full, developing and complex selves.
Five Tips for Helping Your Child Come Out
Don’t Make Assumptions
You may suspect that your child is LGBTI because of their tastes in music, clothes, friends, or the way they carry themselves. But you could be wrong. It’s also easy to assume that if they are gay, they are going to enjoy certain activities more or won’t want to participate in some sport or dress a certain way. But these are stereotypes – no one ever fits society’s templates. So, don’t assume anything about your child. If you’re not sure if they’ll be into something, just ask.
Don’t Ask Them First About Their Sexual Identity
While it’s true that concealing identity can take its toll, so can the fear of rejection or of being attacked.
Sometimes, a child or teenager might not be sure of their identity. Defer to letting them take the lead here. Although it’s usually good to ask your child questions when you’re not sure about something, in this case, don’t. They may need time and space to understand themselves. Worse, if the question were to catch them off guard, they may panic and respond in a way that’s not in accordance with what they actually think.
Gay adults, when asked what they would have wanted when they were kids, told a newspaper, “Don’t push…it’s (their) secret to reveal”.
Voice Your Support for the LGBTI Community
Comment on the news, speak out against any homophobic bullying at your child’s school and watch shows with LGBTI characters in them. From your words and actions, make it clear that, should they ever come out, they can expect a supportive home environment and no change in your feelings towards them. Work the topic into your conversations and don’t treat it as a touchy subject that should be avoided.
Address Your Own Fears
If you are struggling with the idea that your child might be LGBTI, the first thing to do is to inform yourself. Read about the different types of sexuality, about the sorts of bullying, harassment, and discrimination that LGBTI people often face, as well as the psychological issues, like depression, that they are more susceptible to. Then, feel free to talk through these issues with a trusted adult friend or through an online forum such as PFLAG or Gay Parents Australia, or a local group.
Be Available and Loving
Take your child out to a cafe, go for a walk, hang out and play games; whatever works for you both, to give your child time and openings to talk about whatever they need to.
Ultimately, the respect and love you show for your child, as well as a deep willingness to listen, will be what gives them the confidence to come out to you.
Fostering the Well-Being of Your Child
When or if your child does come out, it may not go to plan. It may be awkward or it may be a breeze. Maybe they’ll just bring home a new partner for Sunday lunch. You’ll meet them, welcome them, and that will be it. If it doesn’t go perfectly though – don’t worry. Once that step is passed, the important thing is just continuing to be an awesome, non-judgemental, supportive parent.
Navigating through parenting and life can be hard. It’s always okay to ask for support – for yourself, your child, or both. Psychological Health Care can help you have productive conversations with your child about their sexual identity and can talk with you about creating a supportive home environment that fosters the emotional well-being of your child. To find out more or for a confidential consultation, please contact us.