When a child comes out as LGBTQ+, we might be unsure of how to support them in their process. It might be shocking or confusing to us, but it is essential to remind our children that they are loved. Like all kids, LGBTQ+ kids need to be met with compassion. Many LGBTQ+ children feel rejected and ashamed and are more likely to suffer from depression, addiction, and mental health illnesses. By supporting our kids at home, we can help them feel a sense of belonging and acceptance to help them thrive.
The Phases of Coming Out
One of the most critical aspects of supporting your child’s gender identity and sexual orientation is understanding what they are going through. When we have more information about what our kids are going through, we can anticipate their struggles and prepare to support them in their identity.
- During this stage, the child feels that something is different about them.
- They might wonder if they will be accepted if they share this new identity.
- By creating a safe environment where love, tolerance, and acceptance are valued, we can help our children feel comfortable.
- By this stage, the child is accepting their identity and taking ownership of who they are.
- They may view their gender identity or sexual orientation as the most prominent aspect of their personality.
- They begin to open up about their identity, seek a community of like-minded individuals, start dating, and get comfortable in their identity.
- Rather than viewing their gender identity or sexual orientation as their dominant personality trait, they start to weave this trait into the fabric of their full identity.
- They begin to view this as just one aspect of their full selves.
What Can We Do to Support Our Child?
To support our children with their gender identity and sexual orientation, we can begin by being aware of our feelings toward the LGBTQ+ community. When children and teens struggle with their identities, they might be worried about our willingness to accept them for who they are. Before coming out, a child needs to feel safe about what will happen when they come out. If we are not mindful of our beliefs and attitudes toward the LGBTQ+ community, we may unintentionally express negative attitudes towards LGBTQ+ people. By being open-minded and accepting towards others, we can show our children that we will love and accept them. When LGBTQ+ children feel like they are minorities in their own homes, feel rejected, or unloved and unsupported, they are at a higher risk for developing mental health illnesses, addiction, and other behavioral concerns.
When our children are born, we may project our dreams onto them based on what traditional roles we believe. We might envision grandchildren, a boy who is into sports, a girl who loves getting dressed up, or other expectations rooted in traditional gender roles and identities. We need to acknowledge and express our emotions privately, so we do not confuse our children. It is crucial to give ourselves space and time to grieve expectations we had for our children while continuing to offer our love and support. This can seem like a “mourning” process for us. We need to be affirming of our children and handle our process privately.
We can support our children in their journey of coming out. As we know, the world-at-large might not be tolerant of people with gender identities and sexual orientations different than traditional, non-binary people. We can help our kids develop positive self-esteem by accepting them for who they are and expressing our love. When children grow up feeling safe and secure at home, they are more likely to seek positive relationships, develop healthy boundaries, and feel safe in the outside world.
Take the Time to Learn
According to LGBTQ+ advocate and counselor Paul Gross, learning about your child’s gender identity and sexual orientation can help you support your child. We can learn from our kid’s own shared experiences. We can ally ourselves with our children and learn from them. Ask them what their sexual orientation or gender identity means to them and how you can support them in their process. Seek support groups, resources, and books instead of relying solely on your child to educate you.
When we take the time to learn about our child’s experiences and accept them, we open the door for conversation. Many people believe that they need first to understand before they can accept their child’s identity. Instead, we can foster tolerance and provide a safe home for our children by accepting them unconditionally first. Then, we can begin to understand and let our kids guide us through their journey.
Supporting our children’s gender identity and sexual orientation can begin with acceptance and tolerance for all members of the LGBTQ+ community. We might be unintentionally sending messages of intolerance to our children before they even begin to understand their own identity and sexual orientation. By fostering a safe and open-minded environment in the home, we can ensure that our kids will come to us when the time is right for them. If our kid does come out, we might need to take time to process things on our own. We can deal with our emotions independently; however, we mustn’t let our kids see that we feel shocked or confused. By affirming our children in their identity and sexual orientation, we can support them through their journey and let them teach us about their experiences. Kids identifying with the LGBTQ+ community are at a higher risk for developing issues like depression, addiction, anxiety, lower self-esteem, or other mental health and behavioral concerns. Fire Mountain Residential Treatment Center of Estes Park, Colorado, is accepting of all individuals. If your child is struggling, call us today at (303) 443-3343.