Major Mistakes That Parents Make When They Think Their Child is Gay
As children mature, it’s natural for parents to think about them growing up, dating, getting married and becoming adults. For some parents, thinking about their child’s sexual orientation also comes into play, which can be a very delicate subject matter to think about, let alone talk about with their child as they enter this phase of their teendom. As parents, it’s important to take a step back before making any major moves and think about the best way to approach this sensitive topic.
So let’s dive right in and look at some behaviors to AVOID if you suspect your child is questioning their sexuality.
One big mistake that parents of tweens and teenagers can make is automatically thinking their child is gay if they do not follow social standards or norms. Everyone is aware of the incorrect stereotypes out there – boys play sports, wear blue or black, play with trucks, don’t sing or dance, don’t play with dolls. Girls wear pink, read books, sing songs, take ballet, don’t play football, and so forth. But what exactly do these stereotypes mean? And, it’s important that we think about them differently. The bottom line is that unless your child comes to you with information, don’t make an assumption.
Showcase a Negative Attitude
As your child is growing up, regardless of where you think their sexual orientation may lean, it’s important to be sensitive about what you say and avoid using terms that could be taken as homophobic. Or, as Dr. Matt Hersh, a clinical psychologist with a focus on mindfulness noted, “Particularly if parents have negative beliefs and feelings about LGBTQ identities or ‘behaviors’, they may feel compelled to root out the source of their children’s diversity. But this can lead to greater discomfort and distress in their children and less openness on their part to discuss any of their developing feelings about a core sense of themselves.” Kids can sense your attitude and it’s important to be open-minded.
Sometimes parents may be acutely aware of their child’s sexuality, perhaps even before the child is. However, one huge mistake that parents can make is rushing it out of them. Wait until your child is ready and don’t ever try to push them into a discussion. And, when they are finally ready to spill the beans, don’t ever tell them, “Yep, I already knew.” Or “FINALLY, it’s about time you came clean.” Just wait and be supportive until they are ready.
Being Overly Protective
As parents, you want your child to be safe and protected and as a parent of a LGBTQ child (or one you think may be) don’t ever tell them to hold things in as a guise to protect themselves. Let them express who they are and showcase their personality, if they so choose. By telling them to hide this aspect of themselves, they’ll think there is something wrong or bad about it, which is the last thing you want to do.
Talk To Others
Your child’s sexual orientation and growth is their own private matter to explore and tell others about. It’s not your place to talk to other people about it. Keep it private unless it’s your child that wants to share his or her news with others. Gossip and second hand conversations are not acceptable in this topic area. If you do find yourself wanting to talk more and discuss the subject, there are plenty of wonderful resources here to get in touch with or find a local professional, who can support your family on this journey.
When and if your child does come out and tell you that they are gay, don’t under any circumstances, disregard and ignore what they said. Sure, it’s a difficult thing to comprehend and understand, so even if it takes you a while to digest the information, show support and love along their journey. Don’t wave it away by saying how they may change their mind, or they’re still figuring it all out. If they did build up the courage to tell you, deal with it head on together.
So, now that you know what NOT to do, how exactly should you address the situation?
The best way to address the situation is to be open and accepting as they grow into adulthood. It may take their whole entire tween, teen or even 20’s and beyond to figure out who they are themselves. “Despite the temptation or belief, parents won’t be able to confirm or deny their children’s gender identity and sexual orientation by a test, a single discussion, a particular sexual behavior, clothing choices, or by any other method,” said Dr. Matt Hersh. “Having open and flexible discussions with your children that don’t feel forced is a wise way to proceed, being ever mindful of trying to confirm or deny what you either fear or wish for. Your children will develop at their pace, just as you did as a child.”
And, finally, you as a parent need to accept the situation, whatever that may be. “Acceptance doesn’t mean you have to love what you see, hear, or feel,” says Dr. Matt Hersh. “In fact, unexpected gender identity and sexual orientation development in one’s children can be quite jarring and a source of great distress for some parents. Acceptance in this case is sensing with relative clarity what’s actually in front of you with as little judgment and as much openness and curiosity as possible.”
You love your child and want the best for them. It’s as simple as that. “Your children will feel your openness and acceptance and be more likely to develop in healthy ways, whether gay, lesbian, trans or any other permutation of sexual identity,” says Dr. Matt Hersh. “Even if you don’t agree with how their sexual identity is unfolding, being there for them as unconditionally as possible is how parents can best help their children.”
If you as a parent are struggling with your child’s sexual identity and growth, it’s always wise to seek out professional help, including several resources here.
Written by Phase2Parenting
PLEASE NOTE: The writers of this article are not medical professionals. The information in this column is not intended and should not be construed as providing medical or psychological advice, but rather to offer readers information and provide a perspective to better understand the lives of themselves and their children. Articles on this website may be opinion based. The articles are not intended to provide an alternative to professional treatment or to replace the services of a physician, psychiatrist, psychotherapist or other licensed medical professional. If you do have health or safety concerns, please get in touch with a healthcare professional.