Story by: Kim Huston on October 10, 2019
Coming out is not a one-time event for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning and intersex children and teens. It’s a journey of understanding, acknowledging and sharing one’s sexual orientation and/or gender identity with others. It can be easy or difficult, take a short amount of time for some or be a longer process for others. Parents and guardians can support their child as he, she or they share their identities with you.
The Family Acceptance Project (FAP), the first comprehensive study of LGBTQ youths and their families, showed that the average age a child realized they were gay was a little over age 13. Many knew they were gay at even younger ages –– such as age 7 or 9. FAP’s research shows that families, parents, foster parents, caregivers and guardians have a dramatic impact on their LGBTQ kids. Family acceptance promotes a healthy sense of well-being and protection from risk factors. Conversely, family rejection has negative effects for a child’s mental and physical well-being. Compared with LGBTQ youths who were only slightly rejected or not rejected at all by their parents and caregivers, LGBTQ teens who were highly rejected by their parents/caregivers were:
“Parental support is crucial for a child’s development, no matter their sexual orientation or gender identity,” said Katy Hopkins, Ph.D., psychologist with Norton Children’s Medical Group. “Supportive and loving parenting can be a preventive factor for many issues all teens face, including low self-esteem; drug use and other risky behaviors; depression; and suicide.”
Your reaction to your LGBTQ child’s coming out has a deep and lasting impact on their lives. Many parents may feel conflicted and not sure how they should react. You might feel fear and worry because of how others will perceive or possibly hurt your child. What you should know is that your reaction can help set your child up for a healthy life. Research shows that there are many ways to show your love and support for your LGBTQ child, even if you disagree or don’t understand their sexual orientation or gender identity. Parents should be honest about their feelings, because your child will know how you really feel. Even if you’re conflicted, be honest about your feelings or concerns, but don’t forget to tell your child you love them. If he, she or they know you love them, won’t reject or abandon them, kick them out of the house or emotionally retreat from them, this will help you and your child stay connected.
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Parents, caregivers and families can: