Oy Vey! My Child Is Gay!
“Mom and dad, I’m gay” are possibly the most painful words some parents can ever hear. A flood of emotions overtakes them and spills over to their child. Their initial and subsequent responses will accomplish one of two things – push the child away, or pull the child toward the parents.
Two immediate emotions parents often experience are anger and grief. Both are natural and healthy. It is OK to feel anger as long as it not direct anger toward your child!
Avoid angry outbursts. I have heard parents tell their child “You’re just confused” or “Maybe you will change your mind”. One set of parents interrogated their confused son by shouting furiously: “how could you do this to us?” as if he had planned it for years, or chose to be gay. A father made his position very clear , “If I even suspect you are involved in that activity, pack your bags. You’re out of this house.”
Exhibit genuine caring. A parent can surely cry alone, but shedding some tears with the son or daughter is more beneficial than an expression of anger.
Remember, it takes a lot of courage to come out and say it. In most cases he has been fighting this battle alone much longer than you have known about it.
There are 3 very important things you can do for your child – Support, Love, Honesty.
You can ask open-ended questions: – “How long have you been feeling these feelings?” or “what can we do to help?”
Reassure him with the words, “Let’s work on this together.”
Secondly, display encouragement, not embarrassment! Embarrassment frustrates the healing process. A preoccupation with “what will people say” takes the focus off the issue at hand. If you as a parent find it difficult to discuss this issue with him, seek for support in your area. Parents’ group support can be great.
Whereas embarrassment frustrates the healing process, encouragement promotes the healing process.
Communicate love physically, not just verbally! Do not recoil from your child; rather, embrace him physically. The worst thing you can do is to keep him at arms’ length.
Fathers particularly need to verbally express love and admiration for their sons. I have heard dozens of fathers say “I don’t need to tell him I love him, he knows I do.” Well, he needs to feel it. All your children needs to feel your love all the time, especially when they facing challenging times.
Cultivate an “open-door policy” versus a “case-closed mentality”! If a parent states their disapproval, ending it with “and I don’t want any more discussion on the matter,” he or she is essentially telling the child “I don’t want to hear about your feelings.”
Buy some good books on the subject and read. You may be tempted to give them to your child, but don’t, unless you get his permission. A son or daughter who has “come out” resents having books dumped on them. If your child asks you to read some literature about homosexuality, do it. It won’t hurt you. What better way to help and support your child than to know more information on how to help them. Show your child that you are not afraid to meet the issues head on. He or she will be more receptive to share their hurdles with you and receive your support.
Talk about health risks, like you would have talked to a straight child. The sex risks are the same, and the child needs to know how to protect himself. If you feel embarrassed, you can ask a friend, or seek professional help.
Continue to keep the channels of communication open. Your relationship with your child must be a two-way street; you must create an atmosphere where he could tell you anything and everything and you never blink an eye.
Noa Gross is a Psychodrama & Art Therapist practitioner since 1999, working in ‘My Feelings Counselling’, a private clinic now in Melbourne, Australia.