Coming out is a life-changing moment and there are lots of ways you can make it easier for you both…
Your teen has most likely been anguishing over this watershed moment for a long time and you can play a massive part in making it as accepting, loving and reassuring as possible. The words can come as a shock, even if you have suspected for some time. You might feel an overwhelming rush of emotions and have no idea how to react. Here are some tips on how you can make this experience a positive, affirming moment for you both:
Avoid knee-jerk reactions and focus on staying calm and collected. Take a few deep breaths and steady yourself. Sometimes, a person can come out in the heat of the moment, like in the midst of an argument. Let your teen get out the words, even if it’s screamed in anger or frustration and let them know that you’re listening. Once they’ve calmed down, you can refocus, together.
Hug It Out
A hug can go a long way to making your child feel accepted, loved and reassured. Wrap them up in your arms and reassure them that you love them unconditionally. Don’t be disheartened if they resist a hug – you can show your acceptance and love with your words, instead.
A Safe Space
Let your teen know that you are a safe space for them. Listen to them carefully, allow them to speak their thoughts and supply them with lots of reassurance. Try not to interrupt their flow and ask them what you can do to make things easier for them. Your teen might be worried about breaking the news to the rest of the family and you can offer to do it for them or to help them do it themselves. Give your teen options to make them feel fully supported.
Avoid phrases like, “You’ll grow out of it!”. Your child is telling you this is who they are. They have put their trust in you to respect their decision. It’s an honour to have someone come out to you and you should treat it as such. Suggesting that them being gay is merely a phrase can be incredibly hurtful and belittling. Instead, reassure your child that you love them for them, and that their happiness is the most important thing in the world to you.
Let Them Lead
This is their moment, their life. Try not to rush your teen and give them space and time to talk things over on their own terms. You may have a million and one questions but try not to bombard your teen all at once. Instead, let your teen lead the conversation and ask questions only if the opportunity arises. If your teen is reluctant to offer answers, don’t push them. Give them time.
Reinforce & Reassure
It takes a lot of courage for someone to come out so be sure to show your respect for their bravery. Thanking your teen for coming out to you is a great way to show that you feel honoured to have them share this with you. Your teen has probably been terrified of rejection so to hear these words and to know that they are loved and accepted will come as a massive relief.
It’s perfectly normal to have lots of questions and even some fears for your teen. Arming yourself with facts and knowledge about the LGBTQ+ community can help you to work through any concerns or questions that you might have. You can also reach out to other parents of gay teens to discover more ways to support your child.
Address Your Fears
It’s also normal to have some fears. A common fear is that their path in life may be made more difficult by homophobic attitudes. You may also feel sadness or a sense of loss as you realise that the life you had imagined for them is going to be quite different. You may have a lot of uncertainty or anxieties so be kind to yourself and give yourself time. You can get extra support from friends and family or you can look for a support group for parents of gay teens.
Hopefully, your teen will look back on this moment with pride and love. It can be an extremely positive memory for both of you – that pivotal moment when your teen bravely stood up and shared their truth and you met this with a heart filled with love and arms of acceptance.