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When Your Child Comes Out

When Your Child Comes Out

By Joel Davidson, M.A., L.P.C.

One day, your child says to you, “Mom, Dad, I need to talk to you about something.”  Understandably, that sentence could easily cause some concern and anxiety in any parent.  But what you may not realize is that your child has been agonizing for such a long time to work up the courage to say those words, knowing that what comes out of their mouth next could potentially change your relationship with your child.

How are you going to respond?

What message will you send to your child?

You don’t necessarily know what they are going to say next, but this is your opportunity to create a safe space for them to share what is on their mind and keep lines of communication open. The tone you set can make all the difference.

The next words you hear are:  “I’m gay/bisexual/transgender/non-binary…”

For some parents, hearing those words could be a relief that your child confirmed what you suspected for so long, and you are happy that your child was able to confide in you and you love and support them unconditionally.

For some parents, those words could be shocking.  You may have never suspected it or it may confront how you think about gender identity and sexual orientation based on your own upbringing or religious beliefs.  You may experience anger, confusion, fear, disappointment.

Regardless of how you may react or feel about homosexuality or transgender individuals, it might help to think of the situation from a basic human perspective that is a universal principle.  Most religions believe that all humans are created in the image of the Divine. And for those from a humanistic perspective, everyone is a human being and worthy of dignity and respect.

I am not making the argument that you must change your religious or moral perspectives in order to support  your child. Rather, I am offering a starting point for openness and potentially understanding your child better. While the crystal ball of how you anticipated your child’s life turning out might be shattered, parents have the opportunity to pick up the pieces and rebuild it, creating something new based on honesty.

You and your child will undoubtedly be in two different places on the road to understanding and acceptance. That is okay. How long did it take your child to get to the point to tell you?  It will naturally take time for you to work through your thoughts and feelings.  

Here are some suggestions for parents who encounter this situation:

  • Thank your child for telling you.
  • Acknowledge that this must have been difficult to do.
  • Depending on how you think and feel about it, share with your child:
    • How proud and supportive you are of your child, or
    • Share that this is something you need time to process too
  • Let your child know that you love them – their biggest fear is that you will not love them.

Why does this all matter?  Well, according to the Trevor Project’s 2023 U.S. National Survey on the Mental Health of LGBTQ Young People,  41% have seriously considered attempting suicide in the last year, and 14% attempted suicide. 

In addition, that study found fewer than 40% felt their home was affirming them. And the majority of LGBTQ kids surveyed are bullied at school with 67% experiencing anxiety and 54% having  depression. A majority of the LGBTQ kids in the study couldn’t access mental health care when they requested it. Yet, children in accepting and affirming homes were more likely to feel safe, happy and supported.

If your child is struggling with their sexual orientation or gender identity, we are here to help.  And if you’re struggling with understanding, supporting or accepting your child’s sexual orientation or gender identity, we are also here to help identify and process your concerns and support you as well.

Joel Davidson, M.A., L.P.C, recently joined CFSC after relocating home to Michigan from New York. He is currently accepting new clients and has immediate openings. To schedule with Joel, please contact our office at  248-851-5437