Being a parent is not an easy job. You want what is best for your child, to see them happy and healthy, to protect them from the inevitable pains of the world. Most parents, whether or not they mean to, also create an idea of how their child may be when they grow up. You might imagine them at school dances, learning to drive, or graduating. Maybe you even think about their wedding, their future children, and becoming a grandparent.
These are also some of the reasons why you might hesitate when your child comes out as LGBTQ+ to you. Despite all the progress over the past couple of decades, being publicly LGBTQ+ can still be a dangerous experience in some areas. You’ve heard the statistics and seen the news stories; LGBTQ+ individuals tend to face more difficulties in their lives. Understandably, you may feel significant concern for your child.
At the same time, coming out is still an immensely personal and emotional experience. Your child has probably sat with this truth for a while before finding the courage to share that truth with you. They come to you filled with nerves and fear; fear of your reaction, fear of rejection, and fear for their future, too.
Did your child just come out to you? Are you wondering what you need to do next? There may not be a one-size-fits-all approach to supporting your child when they come out, but there are some things you should NOT do when your child is coming out as LGBTQ+ to you.
The Risks of Coming Out as LGBTQ+
Family rejection is significantly associated with severe health risks for LGBTQ+ adolescents. One study showed that youth who faced family rejection after coming out also reported:
- 4 times more likely to attempt suicide
- 9 times more likely to report high levels of depression
- 4 times more likely to use illicit drugs
- 4 times more likely to engage in unprotected sexual intercourse
These risks are heartbreaking for any parent to read. No one wants their child to face these difficult mental health struggles. But the reality is that an estimated 30% of LGBTQ+ youth face some level of rejection from their family after coming out.
No matter how accepting you may believe you are, it can be different when it’s your child who’s coming out as LGBTQ+. Parents who are open and accepting of others may hesitate when it comes to their children. This leaves children fearful of their parents’ reactions no matter how open-minded their parents might be. When your child comes out as LGBTQ+ to you, they’re aware of the possibility of rejection but trusting you to hold your love for them front and center.
What NOT To Do When Your Child Comes Out
If your child just came out, you’re probably filled with fear and confusion as well. It’s not only a process for your child but you as a parent, too. There’s no roadmap for responding when your child comes out as LGBTQ+. Knowing how to navigate these early stages isn’t always a straightforward process.
There isn’t one single path through the process because everyone comes into it with their backgrounds and experiences to work through. But there ARE some things you can avoid doing after your child comes out as LGBTQ+ to you so they can trust that they have your love and support during this new period of their lives.
Don’t Reject Your Child
Don’t reject your child. It seems like a given until you’re faced with the reality of the experience. You may be the most accepting person in the world but when your child stands in front of you and comes out as LGBTQ+, it’s a different experience entirely. No matter what you do, don’t reject your child. Your immediate response dictates how things progress moving forward. They’ll internalize your reactions if they sense any feelings of disgust, resentment, or rejection. Tell them you love them and support them then process your fear and confusion later.
Don’t Say Things You’ll Regret
Speaking without thinking is one of the worst things to do when your child comes out to you. You may not say anything particularly hurtful but even the slightest off-hand comments can come off as hurtful. Too many parents say things they later regret when their child comes out as LGBTQ+. Try to think before you speak and ask yourself whether it’s something you’ll regret later on. When in doubt, just tell your child you love them and hold off on additional comments.
Don’t Tell Them That It’s a “Phase”
Sometimes it’s easier to convince yourself that your child will be okay if all of this is a phase. It’s something they’re dealing with now during adolescence that they’ll grow out of once they grow up. Whether that’s true or not doesn’t matter right now, though. Telling your child that they’re going through a phase is hurtful and dismissive of their experience. When your child comes out as LGBTQ+, simply love them through their discovery of who they are, however that may end up as they get older.
Don’t Turn It Into an Inquisition
When your child comes out as LGBTQ+, it’s not an opportunity for you to turn it into an interview session. Don’t bombard them with questions about when they figured things out or what this means going forward. Instead, let them offer as much information as they’re willing to discuss with you. If you avoid pressuring them with a ton of questions, they’ll likely open up with more explanations as time goes on.
Don’t Avoid Asking For Help
Accepting your child doesn’t mean you won’t have your process of fear and confusion. There’s nothing wrong with worrying about what it means for your child in the future. But your child shouldn’t be the one to carry the weight of those emotions for you. Look for a source of help during this time, such as online resources, a parent support group, or someone you can talk to.
Process your concerns with someone outside of your family who can listen to everything going through your head with no judgment. For example, a life coach can both hold space for you as you process this new experience and also provide a pathway forward.
Want to find out whether this might be a good solution for you? Schedule a quick, free introductory call today and we can discuss what you’re going through. Don’t avoid seeking help and support for yourself during this time, too!