It’s June which can only mean two things: a vague hope that the weather might be good and celebrating all things LGBTQ+! However, Pride comes with a lot more than just slapping some rainbow flags on things and having a knees-up. If you are a parent or guardian it can also be a confusing time as your child starts their ‘Coming Out’ journey.
Your child might start using words that would score pretty highly in scrabble. They might start dressing differently or they might start bringing someone around that you are pretty sure is more than just a friend. There is so much to learn and trying to do the right thing without putting your foot in it can be a minefield. Here are some quick pointers to help you understand how to support your child’s journey out of the closet.
1. There is no rush
Some of us seem to know exactly who we are born to be, but for others, it involves trying on many hats to see what fits. Our gender and sexual identity is a personal journey of discovery and finding ourselves takes as long as it takes. Never rush your child to know exactly who they are and what they want. It’s okay to try many different things before finding the place we really belong. Just because your daughter held hands with a boy at 10 does not mean she can’t like girls now. Just because your son was once football-mad does not mean he can’t now love Ru Pauls drag race and have an unhealthy attraction to holographic materials, in fact, he can be those things and still love football. Give them time and support and let them figure themselves out.
2. Never force anyone out of the closet before they are ready
Some rush out of the closet at the first available opportunity, some come out to the world looking at their watch and wondering what took them so long. Again, it’s a personal journey. It may feel that the world and his wife knows that your child is not straight and you are just helping things along, but they need to figure it out for themselves. Forcing someone to come out before they are ready to can be a very damaging process because it takes away our right to be the one to decide who we are. Just let them know you love them no matter what and if they have anything they want to talk about you will be all ears.
3. It’s okay to be anxious
We live in a world that is not exactly friendly to those who are not white and heterosexual. It’s very common to have worries when your child comes out because you know that their lives might not always be easy, but remember who your anxiety is actually aimed at. Kids need to be loved and encouraged to be their genuine selves. Coming out should be a time for celebration, no one wants it to be marred by tears over what they might be shouted at in the street. If you have struggles talk privately to a friend, family, or therapist but let your child know you are nothing but a fountain of love and support.
4. Let it be a big deal
I know as progressive parents it can be tempting to show how hip we are by meeting someone coming out of the closet with a shrug and a big who cares? However, it takes a lot of courage to come out so maybe your child might like a few tears and a hug however uncool that might feel? A good rule of thumb is to meet it with the same level of seriousness that your child has given it. So if they just shrug and mention it over the dinner table one night, maybe a shrug back might be appropriate, if however they have sat you down at your favourite restaurant and told you they have some big news they probably want a bit more than just you wondering when the waitress is going to come back to take another drinks order.
5. Educate yourselves
Remember when I said that coming out takes a lot of courage? Well, imagine having to do that but also having to give the dictionary definition of who you are as well. Your child’s job should just be being your child, expecting them to be a teacher too can feel like a pretty big burden. They have probably spent a long time trying to figure out what makes sense to them, having to make it make sense to you too is exhausting. The internet is a fantastic resource for those wanting to learn more about LGBTQ+ issues and identities as well as local charities and organisations. The more you understand the closer the two of you will be.
Coming Out can be a confusing and sensitive time for all involved, but please remember that we’re always on hand to talk to for either you, your partner, or your child. You can contact me, or one of my colleagues at Nightingale Counselling, by either using our Contact Page or call us on 0141 353 9373.
Associate Couple Counsellor
Nightingale Marriage Counselling