Perhaps your child just came out to you as identifying with the LGBTQIA community in Naperville, Aurora, Bolingbrook, Plainfield or Downers Grove IL. This is big news, no matter where you fall on any scale of acceptance. You might have even considered yourself very open-minded, but when it comes to your child, your reaction might surprise you simply because of fear for them and their future.
At this stage it’s important to remember it isn’t about you. You’re entitled to have feelings about what you’ve just heard, but as difficult as it may be to process this news, think of how hard it must have been for your child to approach you with it.
Support for an LGBTQIA Child
You can be a guiding light for your child by listening, loving, educating and supporting.
Despite your desire to want to ask questions, your priority is to listen. If you do just this, your questions will be answered in due time, as your child will learn that you’re ready to hear whatever they’re ready to tell. It’s normal to ask yourself, “Why me? Why us? Did I do something wrong?” Those feelings can diminish and pass if you take the time to listen to what your child shares about what this means to them.
As PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) advises, you want to lead with love. They also note this will likely come naturally to many parents. However, even those who see themselves as open-minded can be challenged by fear and uncertainty. You are your child’s port in the storm—you can be the safe harbor they need you to be.
There are many different terms to describe sexuality these days, so when your child tells you where they are on this spectrum, do your best to learn the terms and all else you can about what this means. Teaching yourself about your child and the LGBTQIA community will show them that you’re in this for the long term.
It’s tough to rank all of these facets of your role as the parent of an LGBTQIA child, but if we were to do so, this would be the most important. Children in this community are prone to LGBTQ+ mental health issues, bullying and other forms of trauma, and your goal will be to not compound these challenges.
The statistics behind bullying of LGBTQIA youth are significant:
A 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Survey shows that 32% of U.S. high school students who identify as LGB have been bullied on school property, and 26.6% were cyberbullied.
As you continue supporting your LGBTQIA child in Naperville, Aurora, Bolingbrook, Plainfield or Downers Grove, you can grow in awareness of research and thought behind trauma triggers and responses. One such perspective is Stephen Porges’ polyvagal theory and its focus on the human nervous system.
The vagus nerve serves the parasympathetic system, or, as this article notes, “the calming aspect of our nervous system mechanics.” Polyvagal theory identifies a third type of nervous system, which Porges coined the social engagement system. This system is critical, especially for an LGBTQIA child, as it helps in navigating relationships and especially developing coping mechanisms.
Bessel van der Kolk, MD, has similarly made a career of studying how children in these situations adapt to trauma. He applies the latest neuroscience and attachment research to develop ways to treat children and adults who suffer from developmental trauma and traumatic stress. Bessel van der Kolk’s teaching and writing can offer potentially useful insight for parents looking to be proactive about understanding trauma in LGBTQIA children and how to support them through it.
Taking Care of Yourself
It’s a common analogy, but there is certainly something to be said for putting on your own oxygen mask before adjusting your child’s. You won’t be helpful to your child (or anyone else) if you’re not also taking care of yourself.
Grieve If You Need To
If the first step in taking care of yourself is to process your grief, by all means, do it. It is okay to feel that you’re grieving a different life you may have envisioned for your child. This grief can be connected to worry, as your child is now technically part of a minority. You might worry that they will be ridiculed or, worse, physically harmed for being different. But now is the time to be bold. Take that cue from your child, who by coming out just did one of the bravest things a person can do.
Remember Self Care
As a parent of a newly “out” child, you might be inclined to jump in with both feet. As parents, many of us tend to do that. You may be so eager ease your child’s transition by learning more about the LGBTQIA community and related mental health that you forget to take care of yourself. The truth is that we are much less useful for others if we have little or nothing left in the tank.
Self-care for you could mean any number of things, such as exercise, meditation, walking, reading a book or going to a movie. Whatever form it takes, give yourself this time, even if you have to schedule it.
Think of being on a plane and running into turbulence that rocks the cabin. There’s a good chance you’ll look at the flight attendants to see if they are calm or if they’re panicking. In the same way, your child will be looking at you to measure how to react to a change in the atmosphere. If you’re consumed by worry and grief, even if you’re not aware, you would be conveying a trauma response to them.
By taking good care of yourself mentally and spiritually, you can be a stabilizing force that your child will need in a defining moment.
LGBTQIA Therapy and Support: Contact Us Today
If your child has just come out and you would like to offer further support through LGBTQ therapy, Eunoia Counseling can talk with you, inform you and encourage you in how to support an LGBTQIA child. We can also assist you in caring for yourself throughout the process. To speak with a professional therapist serving Naperville, Aurora, Bolingbrook, Plainfield or Downers Grove IL, contact us at (630) 340-8747 or firstname.lastname@example.org.