What it's like to have same-sex parents
When Your Child Is Gay: Parenting Advice
When a gay child breaks the news about his or her homosexual identity, some parents may have a hard time dealing with it. Learn parenting skills to help you communicate love and acceptance.
By Katherine Lee
Medically Reviewed by Lindsey Marcellin, MD, MPH
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For parents, having children reveal their gay or lesbian identity can be a shock. While some may have an easier time accepting the revelation that their child is gay, all parents can take certain steps to make sure that they handle the news in a way that helps them maintain a strong and honest relationship with their kids. The following parenting practices emphasize the most important step to take: making sure your child knows he or she is loved.
Gay Children: Offer Acceptance
First, try to separate your immediate reaction from your love for your child. “When young adults are coming out to family members, they are in a very vulnerable place,” says Charlotte J. Patterson, PhD, professor of psychology at the University of Virginia. “They are risking their relationship to be open, and they are likely to be understandably very nervous. Kids are deathly afraid that they will be abandoned.”
Remember that you are the parent, says Doug Haldeman, PhD, clinical professor of psychology at the University of Washington in Seattle: “Take your own upset and learn to deal with it. As with anything, put your child first. And do not be judgmental. Even today, kids are afraid of their parents’ reaction.”
Gay Children: What to Say, What to Do
Let your child know that nothing will change between you — communicate the message that his or her sexual orientation will not affect your love. “Say, ‘I love you no matter what, and I am still your parent,’” says Patterson.
That said, you also need to be truthful about your feelings. If you’re worried about what a declaration of being gay will mean for your child, it’s fair to express concerns. “Being honest can be very helpful in having an honest discussion," says Patterson.”
Balance your concerns with reassurances, adds Haldeman. “Say, ‘We are upset, confused’ or whatever it is, but be sure to also say, ‘We are going to do our best to integrate this into our family.’”
And “integrating this” means just that — it doesn’t mean trying to change your child’s homosexuality. “Some parents, out of fear that their child will be badly treated in the world, may try to change his or her mind,” says Haldeman.
Gay Children: Educating Yourself
“If you don’t know much about homosexuality, then say so,” says Patterson. “Ask your child to help you learn more. Cast your teen or young adult child as a teacher.”
You, as a parent, may be the one to tell other family members and friends about your child’s gay identity. “Some families don’t care; others do," says Haldeman. "Figure out what’s going to work best for your family and then break the news. But whatever approach you go with, make sure you don’t stigmatize your child.”
Gay Children: Family Resources
An excellent organization for families of gay and lesbian children is (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays), a national umbrella of parent organizations. “They are parents who have been through it all who are helping other parents who are going through it all,” says Patterson.
Another good source for information and support is the . “They can provide recommendations for books and therapists for consultation, among other resources,” says Haldeman.
As you move through the process of accepting your child’s gay identity, keep in mind that it is a process. “This is a big piece of news,” says Patterson.
Video: Parenting a Gay or Lesbian Teen - Akron Children's Hospital video
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