Your teen just told you he/she is gay. As a parent you may feel surprised, grateful they trusted you to tell you or you may feel confused, sad, but whatever you feel, first focus on your child.
Let’s understand first what your teen is going through –
The 2018 LGBTQ Youth Report, the largest study of its kind found that LGBTQ teens experience heartbreakingly high levels of stress, anxiety and fear. Some key findings from the report include:
1. 95% of LGBTQ teens have difficulty sleeping
2. Over 70% report feeling worthless or hopeless in the past 7
3. Nearly 75% do not feel safe in the classroom
4. 67% say they have heard family members make
negative remarks about LGBTQ individuals
In addition, suicide rates among LGBTQ teens is significantly higher that heterosexual teens (1.5-3 times higher according to The Suicide Prevention Resource Center).
How do you then effectively love and support your teen? The Amen Clinics (amenclinics.com) give these suggestions:
- Educate yourself and your family: Learn about the LGBTQ community, be aware of possible struggles and be empathetic.
- Be open to talking: Don’t try to force a teen to open up about their sexual orientation but do let them know that you are available to listen without judgment.
- Let your teen know he/she is loved. Letting your teen know you love and support them regardless of sexual orientation can be very powerful for a teen’s self-esteem, confidence and mental well-being.
- Be curious about their life. You don’t have to focus every conversation on sexual orientation. Ask questions and talk to them about all aspects of their life to build a stronger relationship.
- Seek professional help. Talking with a mental health profession can be beneficial for parents and teens and can provide another safe environment to express emotions, fears, worries and more. It can also be a critical part of coping with any mental health issues such as anxiety, depression or suicidal thoughts.
Your first priority is your relationship with your teen. He/she is the same child you have loved so deeply since they were born.