Coming out is a watershed moment – it can be a huge release of multiple bottled feelings such as fear, hope, relief and / or anger. Every coming-out is different and there are no right or wrong ways to go about it. However, if your child comes out to you and you are caught off-guard, there are certain things you can do to make the process easier for both of you.
It is important that you set an atmosphere in which your child feels relieved to share their identity with you. Even if you feel fine about your kid coming out, it is important to have a thorough conversation about it so that both of you are reassured and are on the same page.
However you feel about this news, note that your child has trusted you with something important and has only come to you after thinking it through. Thank them for sharing this information with you and give them a feeling of encouragement so that they want to continue talking to you on this important topic. Be there for them and listen to what they have to share.
Don’t tell them “this is just a phase”
Parents who do not come to terms with their child’s true identity often use this phase which invalidates their feelings. This will make your child feel that they might not have made the right decision to come out to you. Know that if your child is open about identifying themselves in a certain way, it is their decision and you have to accept it, whether you might think or perceive them differently. It is their life and the focus on the conversation should be how they feel. You are entitled to your feelings as well, but do not dismiss what they have to say.
Don’t pass comments that can make them conscious if they start dressing differently. Let them have their experiences and you should use control if they are doing something that puts them in potential danger or hurt.
Don’t use religion or society to shame them
If your family is religious, chances are your child is already burdened with shame due to the conflict between their identity and religious ideas. Know that our sexual identity is separate from our religion. Try not to think of LGBTQ + has something “western” or “illogical” since you may not have noticed people from your generation openly identifying themselves as gay. Do not think of what people would say or God would do. At this point of vulnerability, your child needs more love from you than at any other time. The Trevor Project study found that 29% of LGBTQ + youth have experienced homelessness – been kicked out or run away. They are still your child, do not forget that.
Educate yourself to be your child’s ally
It’s completely ok to have questions, doubts and fears after your child has come out. This is a big moment for you, too, and finding support for yourself will help you to better support your kid. Ask questions about what you don’t know. It’s ok to say that you I don’t know very much about this now but you are willing to learn. Talk to your child, find any other parents’ support group over the internet – go that extra mile to really understand your child. This will bring you closer to them.