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What do you mean you’re LGBTQIA?! How to respond when your kid comes out to you.

an adult and child sitting next to one another on a bed. The adult's arm is around the child and they are leaning into one another

In the whirlwind that is life we sometimes feel like we are just hanging on by a thread. Trying to balance family and work is hard enough. Then something gets thrown in that we weren’t expecting and if feels like OH MY GOSH THIS TOO?! I DON’T KNOW HOW TO DEAL WITH THIS!

Let’s take a minute to breathe. Its’ going to be okay.

You might feel a thousand miles from your kid right now. The one thing you probably have in common is that you are both scared.

Coming out can feel like you are standing on the edge of a cliff. The person you are coming out to has the power to push you off or pull you back to safety. It is SCARY.

And here you are. You want to support your kid and be there for them, but you are scared too! What does this mean?! What if I say the wrong thing?! What is a pronoun?! How on Earth do I support them with everything else going on?!

A great way to start is by following The 4 L's.

The 4 L’s of reacting to your kid coming out as LGBTQIA.

1. Listen (actively)

That seems obvious. But the goal here is to make sure that your kid KNOWS you are listening. Here’s how to make sure they know:

  • Check your body: Sit facing your kid, uncross your arms and legs, nod to show you are listening.

  • Check your mind: Give all your attention to the conversation, and really listen. Don’t interrupt and don’t focus on what you are going to say next.

  • Check your heart: Remember this isn’t about you, this is about your kid. They are at one of the most vulnerable points of their lives right now. Open your heart and let them know you are a safe person.

  • Take a break if you need to. You can say something like “I want you to know that I love you. I am feeling overwhelmed. I need a bit of time to process this and get my thoughts in order before we continue this conversation.” (This is a good time to hug your kid if you are a hugger.)

2. Legitimize (or validate)

A huge fear of people coming out is that others won’t believe them or will think it is a joke. Here are some tips to make sure your kid knows you take them seriously:

  • Your kid likely thought and worried over this moment long before saying anything to you. Let your kid know that they are really brave and thank them for trusting you enough to talk about it.

  • Ask your child if they have come out to anyone else. What was that like for them. Did they feel supported? Did they feel shame? What made them feel safe telling that person?

  • Ask your kid what would help them feel loved and supported during this time. They might not know the answer, but now you can work together to figure it out.

  • Focus on your bond with your child. This is a sensitive time for everyone. This is not the time for tense debating. Wait until everyone is in a calm place before discussing politics, religion and beliefs. For now, focus on connecting and ensuring your kid knows you love them no matter what.

3. Learn

Remember when your kid was little and you felt so lost. You probably did tons of research on what was best for them. Well Congrats! You are now the parent of an LGBTQIA child! Time to break out the search engines and do some more learning!

Here are some sites to get you started:

  • My Kid is Gay is a great place for families looking to understand their LGBTQ kids.

  • The Resource Center at The Trevor Project has resources for adults and kids on sexual orientation, gender identity, diversity, mental health, and suicide prevention.

  • PFLAG is one of the nation's largest organization dedicated to supporting, educating, and advocating for LGBTQ+ people and those who love them.

You may also want to team up with your kid to learn together. Here are some great resources to learn about the LGBTQIA community and its history.

4. Love:

We know you love your kid (you wouldn’t be reading this far if you didn’t) but does your kid know how much you love them?

  • Tell them: Tell your kid you love them. Tell them you love them no matter what. Tell them nothing could ever change how much you love them. Tell them again and again and again. And then one more time just to be sure. (If they start rolling their eyes at you then maybe you have said it enough but keep going just to make sure).

  • Show them: Show interest in your kid’s identity and their coming out process. Ask them about how they are feeling and if there is anything you can do to better support them.

  • Celebrate! Coming Out is a huge milestone in the LGBTQIA community! Go out to dinner, plan a party, sing and dance! Your kid is growing into their own person, and they trusted YOU with knowing about it. That is certainly worth celebrating!

And here’s the secret:

If all after this conversation all that happens is your kid walks away knowing you love them: then you did great!

The rest can be worked out over time.

If you need some help working things out, we’re here for you. Three Circles Therapy Services offers individual and family therapy, coaching and mediation. Click here for more info.


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