Parents of LGBT: What Changes for You When Your Son or Daughter Comes Out
Therapy and Counseling for Parents of LGBT
By Barbara Fane, LCSW, BCD
We think we know and understand our children from the day they are born. We’re convinced that we know what’s going on inside their heads. So when a child announces “I’m gay,” and we hadn’t a clue – or we knew all along but denied it to ourselves – the reactions are often shock and disorientation. You had a dream, a vision of what your child will be, should be, and can be. It was a dream that was shaped by your own history, and by what you wanted for yourself growing up. That dream was also shaped by the culture around you that is suspicious at best, and more often intolerant of those who are different from the mainstream. Despite the fact that a significant portion of the population is gay, American society still prepares most parents only with heterosexual dreams for our children. The shock and disorientation you may feel is a natural part of a type of grieving process. You have indeed lost something: your dream for your child. Your expectations for your child’s life will need to be different now. Most parents believe their children will grow up to be heterosexual, get married, and have children. Letting go of that dream for your child can be hard. It is important for you to remember that your child can still have a wonderful and happy life which includes a committed relationship and children. There will be changes in your parent / child relationship as you work on creating a new dream that fits who your child really is. There might also be changes in your relationships with other family members and friends as you learn how to be the supportive parent you child needs you to be. Especially if your child is transgendered, there will be changes in your own identity as you shift from seeing yourself as the mom or dad of a son – for example – to being the mother or father of a daughter. You might encounter a bit of what your child has gone through as you risk “coming out” about your child with co-workers, neighbors, church members, and others. This can be a bonding opportunity with your child, and a way to more fully understand what life is like for them.
How Consulting with a Therapist Can Help
As you are struggling through all the changes and emotions that come up in response to your child’s coming out, therapy can provide you a supportive environment to process them and a safe space. You will have a safe space to honestly address all your fears. You can learn how to best respond to your child and how to move forward in your relationship with him or her. Counseling can help you build coping skills and problem solve how to respond and increase understanding to others who are hurtful and judgmental. Coming out can be the beginning of a better and more open relationship with your child. Sometimes parents need help to find your way to that relationship.
About the Author: Barbara Fane, LCSW, BCD is a licensed psychotherapist with a private practice in Shrewsbury, Monmouth County NJ. She has been providing affirmative, compassionate and individualized help to Individuals, Couples and Families since 1990.