What To Do if You Think Your Child is Gay
Sometimes, life does not turn out the way we expect. Sometimes our children do not turn out the way we always thought they would. Did I say sometimes? I meant nearly always! Especially when it comes to our children. We have ideas of what it means to have a “boy” or a “girl”, down to the colors used to decorate their crib. We might have ideas about who they will love and perhaps one day marry. So when a parent thinks that maybe their child is gay, or when they are told by their child that they are, their expectations can bump up against reality. That can be a hard pill to swallow for some, while not difficult at all for others. In fact, you might have an idea of how you would respond, but put in the situation for real, you might surprise even yourself!
Yes, kids know who they have crushes on, just like you did when you were little. In some families, parents don’t care who their child loves, as long as they are good people with the capacity to love. Sometimes though, messages have been communicated indicating one way of being is ok but other ways are not. This makes it harder for young children to accept themselves as they are. Without that learned expectation, however, there is just fresh curiosity about life and the world, and discovering what kids prefer in their life: chocolate or vanilla, or something else? Ice cream or cake, or something else? Boys, girls, or both? Or neither? Or something else? There are many sexual orientations out there and your child might not know exactly how to label themselves, but that part doesn’t actually matter. What matters is your child, and how they feel about themselves- and I mean all parts of themselves! Parental acceptance and support are protective factors in a child’s well-being, especially when it comes to being LGTBQ+ (Lesbian, gay, transgender, bisexual, or queer, etc.). When kids are accepted and supported for who they are, they can go on to thrive and lead successful lives. When they are met with rejection, that can lead to the worst of outcomes- homelessness, substance abuse, suicide, or an internalized homophobia that can bubble over and hurt others as well as themselves. No matter how hard it seems right now for you or your child, it does get better!
Check out the website: http://www.itgetsbetter.org/video/ to see how others have handled similar situations.
If your child is questioning their sexuality, there are support groups out there that can help you and them. In North County San Diego, there is the LGBTQ Resource Center in Oceanside. Their website lists the support groups they have for LGBTQ and questioning youth, adults, and family members (http://www.ncresourcecenter.org/). In central San Diego, there is the Center in Hillcrest. They too have support groups for LGBTQ and questioning youth, adults, and family members (http://www.thecentersd.org/), and the Hillcrest Youth Center for kids age 14-18. Finding a community to help answer questions and listen to your story can be immensely helpful in the coming out process and beyond. And of course, there is individual therapy with a competent therapist. This is a safe and secure way to express your thoughts and feelings with a non-judgmental and objective person. A therapist can help you, your child, and your family, as you discover more about this unfolding human you are raising into an adult.
Just because your child may be gay, or bisexual, or whatever, does not automatically mean you need to be in therapy. My own perspective is that everyone can use some therapy at times, especially when it comes to life transitions. Often times, an individual will experience depression, anxiety, or other symptomology as they are questioning their sexuality. And society is not consistent across the board with how they treat sexual minorities. This just means that you might find it helpful to get some support for your child, or yourself. If you feel like counseling might be helpful, you can contact a therapist at Coherence Associates and get some guidance about individual, family, or group therapy. We are here to help you and/or your family as you navigate this process, as well as any other life transitions you may be experiencing.
– Connie Glenn, MS, LMFT
Coherence Associates Inc. www.coherenceassociates.com (760) 942-8663