IT CAN BE TOUGH TO KNOW WHAT TO DO WHEN YOUR CHILD OR LOVED ONE TELLS YOU THEY’RE LGBTQ.
Especially if it catches you off guard. (Which, it likely will. Even if you had a hunch.)
For starters, let’s cover the acronym: “LGBTQ” stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and the ‘Q’ can stand for ‘questioning’ or ‘queer.’
According to the Williams Institute, there are more than eight million self-identified LGB people in the U.S., and approximately 1.4 million people who identify as transgender. Eight in ten people in the U.S. personally know someone who is LGB, and one in three people know someone who is transgender.
WHAT SHOULD YOU SAY?
If your child or loved one comes out to you, it’s important to lead with love in your response. In fact, if you’re at a loss for words in the moment, starting with “I love you” is a great start says Dr. Renata Arrington Sanders and Dr. Errol Fields, John Hopkins pediatricians and adolescent medicine specialists.
“Time and time again, we hear the same thing from patients: ‘Once my parents are behind me, I can handle anything else the world throws at me,’” Dr. Fields explains. “You’re their anchor, and your acceptance is key. In fact, research shows that LGBTQ adolescents who are supported by their families grow up to be happier and healthier adults.”
“There’s no right or wrong way to express love,” says Dr. Sanders. “Just be present and be open.” Even if you’re not sure what to say, something as simple as, “I’m here for you. I love you, and I will support you no matter what.”
FAMILY TIME MATTERS NOW MORE THAN EVER
Spending extra time together as a family is crucial at this time as well. Maria offers these perfect Family Fun Printables to help you do just that. From a 30-Day Family Challenge to Empowered Kids’ Music Playlist and “Take What You Need” Tear Off, it’s sure to help equip you with family friendly tools to help unify and connect your family during this vulnerable time.
Grab this FREE Summer Service Project Planner and plan a family afternoon together helping others – the perfect way to unite your family and serve others along the way.
GET CLEAR ON THE FACTS
Getting straight on the facts is very important as well. If a child feels misunderstood, they’re more likely to clam up and not share their feelings during this critical time.
“When we speak with parents, we hear a lot of misconceptions about gender and sexual orientation,” says Sanders. Empower your parenting with what experts know:
- It’s not “just a phase” and suggesting that it is can be extremely hurtful.
- There is no “cure” and this is not something that needs to be fixed.
- Nobody is to “blame.”
Listening with intention is another key strategy. Give your child ample opportunity to open up and share their thoughts and feelings. Say things like, “tell me more” from time to time to show that you’re in it with them and in no hurry to end the conversation.
“Remember, your child is having more difficulty with this than you are,” says Dr. Fields, “and your duty as a parent comes first.”
In the days and weeks after your child or loved one shared their news, try to show support, even if subtly, to let your child know that you’re supportive and understanding.
Reading books like Dazzling Travis by Hannah Carmona Dias is a great way to open the lines of communication at a young age. It’s an empowering story that encourages kids of any gender to challenge the social norm and reveal their true selves.
“Some parents feel so overwhelmed that they just throw up their hands and say, ‘I can’t do it.’ It’s a lot for parents to process, but don’t leave your kid in the lurch,” says Dr. Sanders.
If you need help supporting the LGBTQ loved one in your life, be sure to reach out for help. Talk to a pediatrician, therapist,or school counselor for tips and advice on how to best be supportive.
Meg Keys is the author of The Waiting Line – What to Do (and Not Do) When Someone You Love is Struggling with Infertility and an award-winning advertising and marketing writer with nearly 20-years professional writing experience. She is fueled by her love of food, art and fluffy pets and lives in Metro Detroit with her husband and son. Find her at megkeys.com.