Think Well

Act well, feel well, be well

What to Do If Your Child Comes Out

Helping your child successfully navigate the post-closet landscape.

Despite the fact that it is increasingly clear that homosexuality is mostly an inborn, hardwired phenomenon much like genetic gender and race, many people still believe that sexual preference is a choice. Sadly, even in the face of long overdue and vital social and legislative changes allowing for gay marriage in a greater number of states, a lot of individuals maintain that being gay is unnatural, immoral and abhorrent. While it may be nearly impossible to disabuse such rigid and ignorant people of their erroneous beliefs, more flexible and enlightened thinkers understand that homosexuality is almost never a deliberate choice.

Interestingly, many therapists agree that women have a more fluid sexual nature than men and are, therefore, more apt to explore gay, straight, and bisexual roles during their lifetimes. What’s more, it seems that human sexuality is a far more complicated matter than previously thought and the simple, trinary classification of “gay, bi or straight” is woefully inadequate in capturing the wider array of people’s sexual lives. For example, there are transsexual, intersexed, hermaphroditic, and asexual people, too. Indeed, despite increasing social awareness of the complex nature of sexuality (as reflected by the growth of the LGBTQIA—Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning, Interesex, and Asexual—community)  because of the rampant misinformation and prejudice that surrounds homosexuality, coming out can still be a very, very scary and risky business.

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So, here are some helpful ideas that can help you and your child to successfully navigate the “post-closet” landscape.

  Don’t:

  • Deny that your child’s deep, intimate disclosure of homosexuality is real and true.
  • Blame anyone or anything for the truth of your child’s sexuality.
  • Accuse your child of merely “choosing” a gay lifestyle or of being mentally ill.
  • Demand that your child seek help or treatment to straighten him or her out.

 Do:

  • Accept that in most cases homosexuality is not a deliberate choice, a spiritual deficiency, the result of early childhood experiences, or of poor parenting.
  • Understand that human sexuality is much more complex than most people realize and is essentially a genetic/epigenetic, “hard wired” characteristic.
  • Support your child, who is courageously disclosing the fact that he or she is gay, by expressing feelings of unconditional love.
  • Validate your child’s sexual preferences by stating your hope is only that he or she will be happy and find genuine love in life.

Keep in mind that almost all healthy people want love, support, validation, and noncritical acceptance; not rejection, criticism, blame, and disapproval.

Remember: Think well, act well, feel well, be well!

Copyright by Clifford N. Lazarus, Ph.D.

Clifford N. Lazarus, Ph.D., is Clinical Director of The Lazarus Institute.

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