Mom supporting daughter

How to Respond When Your Teen Comes Out

As a parent, you may not understand how to respond to your teen if they come out as a member of the LGBTQ community. Kids identifying as gay, queer, bisexual, transgender, or anything other than heterosexual may face more risk of problematic issues if they do not feel loved and accepted. These kids might not have a role model in the home and might look outward for their role models. Parents of kids coming out can offer support, compassion, and understanding to help their kids feel valued and accepted. 

In the 200th episode of “Beyond Risk and Back” called “When a Child Comes Out,” Fire Mountain’s Aaron Huey discusses teens coming out with therapist and coach John Sovec. John Sovec believes in the approach of “hug, love, embrace, and support” when your kid comes out of the closet. Coming out can be a powerful and important moment in your kid’s life. By educating yourself on their experience, you can better prepare yourself to respond supportively if your child comes out as a member of the LGBTQ community.

What Your Child Is Going Through

Kids are living in a different world than you experienced at their age. They are getting bombarded with information and constant “up to the minute” news coverage in the media. This constant flood of information can already place your kid in a highly reactive and anxious state of mind. On top of that, your child is struggling with the usual teenage issues of forming their identity, attending school, planning the future, and finding their “tribe.” When your child struggles to reveal their sexual identity, they might feel an additional burden in an overbearing society.  

Survival Mechanisms

Your child may choose one of many maladaptive strategies to survive in the world. They might develop an addiction or other behavioral issues or experience extreme loneliness with a lack of meaningful connections. Some kids might develop different personality issues in order to survive when they feel like their identity as LGBTQ members is not accepted. Teens who identify as anything other than heterosexual might be more at risk of having problematic issues. They might feel that they are unloveable or fear that no one will love them for who they are. 

The “flight or fight” response helps people survive when they feel unsafe. However, this response does not only exhibit itself when a person is in immediate danger, such as when something threatens their safety in the moment. The “flight or fight” response can also cause your teen to “flee” from their true identity in a world they feel will not accept them. They may bury this part of themselves and mask their identity with another issue to survive. Kids develop their sense of the outer world within their homes. How your kids feel at home—ideally, safe and secure—can translate to a feeling that the rest of the world is also welcoming and embracing. 

How to Respond

As John Sovec says, you can best respond with “hugs, love, embrace, and support.” You might not understand what your child is feeling or wonder, “why are they like this?” Supporting your child as they come out does not require you to understand. You can learn as you go. Your child can teach you how to understand. What matters most is acceptance. Your child needs to know and feel that they are loved. Suppose other members of your family, such as grandparents, aunts, or uncles, are not supportive. In that case, you may need to temporarily distance your child from these relatives until they come around or until your child is confident in their identity.  

You can also educate yourself on the LGBTQ community to better understand what your child is going through. You can research stories of other people who have come out and what the experience was like in their families. Ideally, you always want to support and love your child, no matter how they identify. If your child does come out to you, be sure to praise them and state that you are honored that they came out to you. Your child is facing a potentially challenging issue that may put them at a higher risk of problems. The more they are supported and loved in their home, the better equipped they will be to handle the world’s unfortunate stigmas. When your child feels loved at home, they are more likely to find love and support in the outside world when they become adults.

If your child comes out as a member of the LGBTQ community, you might be unsure about how to respond. They might have anxiety about revealing their identity and could be masking this with maladaptive behaviors. Kids who fear coming out might be at a higher risk of developing problematic issues, like addiction or other problems. You can help your kid by supporting and loving them. By offering unconditional love, you can help your child develop a healthy feeling about the outside world. Children build their feelings about the world at large while in the home. When your kid feels safe and secure at home, they are more likely to think that they will find love and support as they grow up and enter the working world. If your child struggles with problematic behaviors or addiction, Fire Mountain Residential Treatment Center is here to help you. We offer support to teens and parents to help your family’s fire burn brightest! Call us today at (303) 443-3343.

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