June is Pride Month, which is a time of celebration for LGBTQ people all over the world. For many, however, coming out can be an extremely nerve-wracking and potentially traumatic experience.
LGBTQ teens are far more likely to attempt suicide or self-harm, especially if they are part of a family that is not supportive of their identity. This is what makes the coming out experience for a young adult so poignant and important.
Coming out isn’t an easy decision. A parent needs to support their child during this time, and the ways a parent can provide support are surprisingly simple.
Consider the following advice to help your child be open about who they are, so they know they have your support and can feel comfortable communicating their hopes, fears, and confusion about it all.
What Should Parents Do Upon Hearing the News?
The most sensitive and nerve-wracking part of the coming-out process may be wondering how a parent will react to their child’s news. Because of this, the best advice is to listen more than to speak.
Regardless of how you feel about it, thanking your child for trusting in you enough to honestly share what’s going on in their life is a good start. A big hug full of unconditional love helps, too.
After the initial shock, deeper and more complex feelings may start to set in. For many parents, the news of their child coming out feels like a loss. Their expectations of how their child’s future was going to play out may be dramatically different afterward. Parents might even fear the discrimination and danger their child may experience as an openly LGBTQ individual.
You may need to seek out therapy to manage your fears and emotions — and it might be helpful to do it in tandem with your child if they have similar fears, as well, in an effort to strengthen your relationship and understanding of one another.
Besides therapy or counseling, learning more about others in the LGBTQ community can also give you a sense of purpose and help you better understand what it means to be out.
You can learn more by accessing a variety of LGBTQ learning resources and support professionals, including the Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) organization. They have chapters nationwide where LGBTQ youth and their loved ones get together to meet others who may be experiencing the same ups and downs that can come with coming out and beyond.
What Ways Can Parents Help Their Child?
When your child comes out, there are pressures they may not be equipped to deal with just yet. He or she may be feeling ostracized at school or feel like they have not fit in for some time.
Coming out doesn’t solve the issue. They may feel better for not having to keep the secret any longer, or may be relieved to know there are others like them, but they may still face harassment or bullying by their peers.
If you find that your child is particularly anxious due to feeling unwelcome or unsafe in their environment, you may want to consult their doctor to see if there are any natural ways to help ease their anxiety.
Seeking therapy or guidance counseling can also help your child learn how to manage their feelings and better accept themselves for who they are, improving their understanding that there is nothing fundamentally wrong with them, despite what some parts of society might try and say.
What Should Parents Avoid Doing?
Sometimes, the best thing parents can do is to take a step back and continue on as if nothing has changed. When you think about it, nothing has really changed — your child is no different the day they came out than before. You’re still looking at the same person you adore.
Stepping back sounds simple on paper, but it isn’t always easy. Parents want to be there to guide and help and attend to everything that might be hurting their child, but kids need to learn how to navigate in the world as independent, young adults, too.
With that said, there are some things parents should avoid doing, unless prompted into discussion about it:
• Questioning their child about their plans
• Asking if they, as parents, did something to cause the situation such as getting divorced
• Judging or doubting their decision
• Frightening them with stories of how other “out” teens or young adults struggle
As with the initial moment when your child came out to you, the best thing to do is listen, provide love, support, and give them the same normalcy they had before coming out.
Your kid is undergoing enough changes as it is. The daily home routines such as Pizza Mondays or making cookies together on Sundays can help kids weather this challenging time. Most importantly, follow their lead and remember that what they need from you more than anything else is your love and support.