The way that parents respond when their child comes out as LGBTQIA+ matters. A supportive family and unconditional parental love are essential for LGBTQIA+ kids to thrive.
Parents can play a huge role in keeping their children safe. The world doesn’t always create safe and welcoming spaces for LGBTQIA+ kids, so establishing a loving home environment can provide a buffer against the discrimination that still exists for many LGBTQIA+ people.
It can also be natural for you to feel unsure about what to say and do when your child comes out to you. Know that your child is sharing this information with you because they trust you and want to stay connected.
Here are some tips on how to respond, what not to say, and resources for you and for your child.
One of the best things to do as a parent or caregiver is to respond with deep and unconditional love. Your child needs to know that they’re loved and supported exactly as they are. Make sure to thank your child for sharing this information with you and tell them how much you love them.
“Parents need to acknowledge that their child has shared a piece of sensitive and private information with them,” says Julie Mason (she/they), a queer mental health counselor with the Guelph Family Health Team in Guelph, Ontario, Canada. “It’s a privilege to be trusted with this information about their child’s identity.”
Mason also suggests that parents listen to their child and let them take the lead. They recommend that parents avoid making assumptions about what their child needs.
“Try to ask questions rather than making statements,” says Mason. “Ask your child, ‘What kinds of things do you want help with that will help you feel more comfortable in your identity?'”
It may be stressful for your child to tell you about their identity. It’s important to stay calm, loving, and attentive.
Make sure that your child’s coming out doesn’t become about your feelings. Your child doesn’t need to hear your worries or fears.
It’s also important to avoid saying something like, “I knew it!” This brings the focus back to you and suggests that you already had your child figured out, while they may have been having trouble discovering themself.
Respect what your child tells you. Don’t suggest that they’re just trying to get attention or going through a phase. Also, know that it’s natural for your child’s identity to continue to change as they learn more about themselves.
LGBTQIA+ youth are at a higher risk of death by suicide.
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“Parents have a responsibility to protect their gender and sexually diverse children from discrimination and violence, and this starts at home,” says Mason. “Using and promoting their child’s correct pronouns and chosen name and enabling their connection to the LGBTQIA+ community are life-saving measures that trusted adults can take and can role model for the other adults in their child’s life.”
Along with your unconditional love and support, it can be helpful for your child to know that they’re not alone. One way you can help your child is by encouraging them to connect with others in LGBTQIA+ communities.
Here are some resources you can share with your child:
The Trevor Project
The Trevor Project is full of information about sexual identity, gender, and mental health on its website. There’s also a 24/7 counseling service over the phone, online chat, or text.
The Trevor Project also hosts TrevorSpace, where LGBTQ+ youth can connect with each other. Their mission is to create a loving and safe space where everyone feels welcome.
The It Gets Better Project
The It Gets Better Project helps empower LGBTQ+ youth. Things can be tough out there, especially if someone is managing their mental health or dealing with discrimination.
The It Gets Better Project works to uplift youth by letting them know they’re not alone. They offer more than 60,000 videos of people sharing their personal messages and stories on their website.
Genders and Sexualities Alliances (GSA) Network
This group trains and empowers LGBTQ+ youth and allies to establish supportive and safe environments for all. The GSA Network facilitates meet-ups in schools for LGBTQ+ youth and allies.
They also advocate for equal rights for LGBTQ+ youth. They provide a list of state contacts where you can find a group in your area.
It’s natural to have worries about your child’s identity and how they’ll fit into the world. Remember that it’s not your child’s job to address your fears or help you through them.
Mason sees this often in practice.
“Parents may feel challenged by the new information about their child’s identity and have feelings of grief, confusion, anger, or sadness,” they say. “Parents need to seek care for themselves in the form of counseling, peer support, or therapy and to keep these feelings and thoughts out of conversations with their child.”
Here are some resources you can check out:
This organization was founded by a mom and her gay son with the goal of letting people who identify as LGBTQ+ and the people who love them know that they’re not alone. You can find a variety of resources and information on their website.
PFLAG also hosts meetings in places across the United States. You can find out more about nearby groups on PFLAG’s Find a Chapter page.
The Family Acceptance Project
This initiative focuses on supporting parents to help their LGBTQ+ kids thrive. The Family Acceptance Project works with families to improve physical and mental health outcomes for LGBTQ+ kids.
They research how the level of family support influences the health of LGBTQ+ kids. Using that knowledge, they have created programs and policies to enable diverse families to best support their kids.
You can learn more about their research and programs on their Program Links page.
Gender Spectrum’s goal is to support and celebrate gender-diverse kids and youth. You can find advice and personal stories about how parents can support their kids and youth on their website.
There’s also information on how to help gender-diverse kids in school and religious settings. They offer a variety of groups for parents, grandparents, teachers, and youth.
Human Rights Campaign
This organization has been fighting for equal rights for LGBTQ+ folks since 1983. Connecting with Human Rights Campaign is a way to find out more about the discrimination still faced by many in LGBTQ+ communities and how you can help to make things better.
They host events and have chapters in many parts of the United States.
When your child comes out to you, they’re trusting you with this important piece of information.
“Recognize that your child’s disclosure is a way that your child is seeking connection, safety, and belonging with you,” says Mason.
When you accept and love your child for exactly who they are, you’re helping protect them from the negativity and stigma that still exists out there for many LGBTQIA+ people.
There are a variety of resources for your child to help them feel connected with others in LGBTQIA+ communities. There are also groups and resources for you as a parent so you can best support your child.