Being a Supportive Parent

BY Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Reading this is the first step!

Hooray! So your child has just come out to you! Maybe they’ve told you they're not straight, or that they don’t identify with the gender they were assigned at birth. There are heaps of different ways people describe their sexual or gender identities, which we understand for some parents or guardians can be a little overwhelming. Have no fear though! We’ve created a handy little glossary of all these terms!

For some young people, coming out can feel like the most daunting conversation they’ve ever had. For other young people it might not be a concern at all. Everyone is different, so it's really important not to make assumptions about how your child is feeling.

As a parent you might be unsure of what you should say and do after your child has come out, and that’s okay! You might be feeling pretty emotional, and might even be feelings things that aren’t so positive. It’s super important that you are careful about what you say to your child as your first reaction can have a big impact on their wellbeing. We know you want this experience to be as positive as possible for everyone, so here we've prepared some handy tips on how to celebrate your child's coming out!

Creating a safe space!

The most important thing you can do for your child is to make the space where you live together a safe space. This means a creating an environment where they can feel comfortable and happy to express themselves and their identity without fear of being judged or hurt. 

Challenging and changing any behaviours in the home that might be homophobic or transphobic is a great place to start. For example, if a family member or guest says “that’s so gay”, reminding them that homophobic and transphobic language is not acceptable in the house. 

Another step is letting your child know that you’re a trustworthy and good listener, and that you’ll always be there to listen if they need someone to talk to and help them as much as you possibly can.

Don’t just accept, celebrate!

Often parents might say to their child “I will tolerate you no matter who you are” or “I will still love you even if you are ____” .

As well intentioned as these phrases may be, it’s important to let your kids know you don’t love them despite who they are, but that you love them unconditionally for who they are. Being same-sex attracted or gender diverse is not a flaw or abnormality at all, and having the love and full support of your parents makes a huge difference for any young person, but especially one who’s just come out to you.

So what’s the right way? It doesn’t have to be throwing a big party and baking a cake with hundreds and thousands sprinkled on top (not that that there is ever any thing wrong with delicious cake). It’s as simple as saying things like “thanks for trusting me and being open” or “I’m so happy and excited for you to be yourself and let others know who you are!”

From good to great!

Some parents react to their child coming out with worry, as they feel their child is going to have a harder life. This is certainly not the case! While there can be challenges, living a fantastic, fulfilled, happy and successful life is just as possible, and having your support as parents will play a big part in that. As many young people at Minus18 can tell you, being same-sex attracted or gender diverse and able to be yourself can be life changing, and lead to amazing things! 

Being out to others as a young person, especially in school environments, can involve having to deal with homophobia and transphobia. However, society is changing. The Safe Schools Coalition program is being rolled out in schools across Victoria and across the nation. This is a program that works with teachers and students to make schools more inclusive places free from discrimination.

Then there are youth organisations (like Minus18!) who organise events where same-sex attracted and gender diverse young people can be themselves and find support from likeminded young people. Here are some photos from our last dance event where you can see plenty of young people living their AMAZING lives! 

Feeling unsure? Just ask!

If you are still feeling unsure of how to support and celebrate your child, just ask them! This could be as simple as saying “what can I do to support you?”  and following their lead. Try to focus on giving them the support they ask for and not making assumptions. While you may mean well it’s easy to accidentally to be too distant, or too smothering, so having open communication with your child is always a great approach.

Minus18 also has lots of great resources on sexuality and gender if you’re looking for more information.

Overall if you create a safe space, celebrate your child and spread positive hopeful messages you are well on your way to being an even more fabulous parent!