Hey fellow Moms and Dads. You may feel like a deer in the headlights! Your child just told you: “Mom, I’m gay,” “Dad, I’m lesbian,” “I’m bisexual,” or “I’m transgender.”
I know! This is the last thing you want to hear, and your head is spinning. What does this mean? What will become of my child? What did I do wrong?!
I understand. This can be a very hard time for you. But you can get through this.
My name is Susan Cottrell. I’m a mother of five lovely kids, and two of whom are part of the LGBTQ community. I’m also a pastor, and a longtime leader in the church.
I also wanted to write this article to give you 5 key steps you can take when your child comes out to you.
1: Breathe. Pause. Don’t do anything rash. When we are in crisis mode, it’s the worst time to make a decision! My husband and I don’t even answer a difficult email without giving it 24 hours! Your child deserves much more than that. You may have a lot of emotions around this: fear, panic, regret, sadness, shame, grief. When our daughter Annie first came out, I remember this fear of what would become of her. Work through these emotions without making your child pay for them. They’re not doing this to hurt you! They didn’t choose it, they discovered it! And there’s nothing you could have done to produce a different outcome. No praying or wishing or threatening will change it! Breathe and allow yourself—and your child—to be!
2: Stay connected with your child. This is a fragile time for our children. Your response is critically important. Depression, self-harm, suicide, are real risks—NOT because people are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender, but because they are rejected for it, cut out of families and community. If you have cut your child off, or reacted unlovingly to them, seek them out—let them know you’re there—that the relationship is important to you!
When Annie came out, we embraced her completely. And still, months later, she said, “Are you sure you won’t reject me? You and Dad?” I said, “Yes I’m sure! But why are you asking?” She said, “Because I’ve seen it happen to my friends.” My heart broke. That is not parenting—to kick your child out—or to make them pay for this thing about them that they didn’t choose. And it’s not love. Stay in touch with your child! Tell them, repeatedly, that they will always belong in your family, that you will never reject them—and mean it! I can’t tell you enough how fragile this time is for them and they need you.
3: Search your heart. Search your heart to find out why this bothers you. Is it because it is so foreign to you? Something you don’t want to imagine? Fear for their future? If you are afraid, what is best? To react in fear or to embrace your child while you sort your feelings out?
If this is a faith issue for you, then talk to God about it. Say, “God, how do you want me to view my child?” I work with thousands of parents, both online and in person. And every one of them who’s told me they prayed about it—the response they got back was, YOU love your child! Your child is fine. Nothing is wrong with them. I’ll take care of them—and you—you just love them and leave the rest to Me.
No one has come back to me and said, “God told me to Kick them out. They’re a sinner and you have change them.” That doesn’t even sound like God!
Let yourself be moved, even surprised, by God’s answer to you!
4: Educate yourself! After Annie came out, I searched the for what the big deal was about this—and I found out that six little verses in the Bible have been ripped from their context to condemn the gay and transgender community. Well that’s not fair, and that’s not Christian. We owe this community more than that. I found books and videos that really helped me. Read books from people whose position has changed. Give yourself the time it takes to get educated on something unfamiliar to you! Look at the resources page on my website: FreedHearts.org, and broaden your understanding. These are not stereotypes; these are our children! Let’s learn to love them better!
5: Love, love, love, love, love. You’ll never regret loving too much. If you cut your child off now and in five years you decide you want a relationship, it may be too late. Your child may be unwilling at that point… or you may not have a child. Please don’t do that. Love them unconditionally! Trust God with everything else. By rejecting our children, we have done more damage than we can even imagine! If you’ve been told you have to choose between your child and God, that is simply not true. To choose your child is to choose God! Because that’s the child God gave you! LOVE your child, and TRUST God with everything else!
Remember, God’s got this. God’s got your child, and God’s got you!
You are not alone. We have support groups for parents, and comprehensive resources. If I can help you on this journey, please just come say hello at FreedHearts.org.