Here are a few important things to consider, and ways to offer support:
First and most importantly, remember that your child has to come out to themselves before they can come out to you. Their process of self-acceptance is just as complicated, if not more so, as is your acceptance of their identity. Your child might be overcoming fears and negative emotions in order understand what they are feeling, so the best thing you can do for them is to listen. Ask questions with openness and without judgment. Be calm, be gentle. They might really just need someone to talk to; so be that person for your child.
It’s okay to feel mixed emotions at first; maybe you had a different plan for your child, or perhaps you are fearful because you know that LGBTQ+ people can face disproportionate challenges and barriers throughout life. No matter what you may feel, this moment is ultimately about your child and their personal journey. No amount of confusion or fear you may be experiencing is worth damaging your relationship with your child, or making them feel wrong for expressing who they are.
Ask your child what kind of support they need and be ready to figure out how to give them that support. They might be too young to answer some of the questions but never too young to feel supported. For an older child or teen, ask them if they want to learn about any community-based or online LGBTQ+ groups as well as if they want out to reach out to us here at Tribeca Pediatrics. Check in with them about their mental health, and whether they have specific questions for their medical provider, especially as they enter puberty. Be prepared that you may be their first, and their best example of what it means to be their own LGBTQ+ health advocate.
Be your child’s confidante; before speaking to anyone else about their coming out process, or exploration, ask if they want to keep it between the two of you or share their news with others, specifically, at school. If they come out socially or at school, check in regularly about any potential bullying situations, in person or online.
As their parent and family, you are one of their most vital resources, emotionally, mentally, and socially. Your efforts of support during this process can have a lifetime’s worth of positive impact and harm reduction. The process of lending support to your LGBTQ+ child is lifelong, since your child will have to come out continuously and repeatedly throughout their lives. The expression that ‘acceptance is protection’ for LGBTQ+ kids can help you guide them towards seeking the resources they need that you may not be able to fulfill.
Your child’s queerness is just another part of what makes them who they are. Read less