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What to do?

Because of the world we live in, our socialisation, our upbringing, and our religious backgrounds, it may be hard to cope when your child tells you that they are gay or bisexual.

The first reaction is often shock and disbelief. You may feel fear and sadness for your child, and anger, revulsion, shame, or dismay. You may hope it is just a passing phase. You may look for someone to blame – television, friends, or even yourself. Often you may feel a sense of loss, that the person whom you thought you knew so well seems to have changed. Pain, tears and sleepless nights frequently accompany the impact of the news because you worry what your family will think, or whether your child will be safe on the streets, or if perhaps, he will get AIDS?

These are all common feelings and reactions of parents who have heard the news that their child is gay. Mostly they are reactions born from a lack of knowledge and inexperience in this area. Set such anxieties aside for the moment, the important thing for you is to find ways to cope and support your child. Your child has probably come to terms with his sexual orientation, and felt comfortable enough about it to ‘come out’ to you. Now it’s your turn to deal with this the best way you can.

The shock of hearing your child is LGBT can last for hours, days, weeks, months or even years. No two parents react the same way. Give yourself time to come to terms with the new situation. Explain to your child that you need time to adjust to the news. They may not have considered just how shocking the news might be to you. It is obviously wholly desirable for you to try and adapt to the news, and not reject your child.

Some people cannot accept the fact of their child’s sexuality and will not discuss the subject with anyone, and live in denial. This doesn’t make the fact that their child is LGBT go away.

It is best, at this stage, to talk about how you feel to someone you trust – outlining any fears, frustrations, anger, or grief. Be honest about how you feel. This may all be new to you and there are no right or wrong ways for you specifically to deal with it.

Listening to, and speaking with, other parents who are coping, or who now have a comfortable understanding of their child’s individuality, may make you feel less alone.

When you are ready to talk to your child about how you feel, ask them how they are feeling too. They are likely to feel relieved, scared, or uncertain, about your reaction and how their sexuality will affect their relationship with you. Ask them the questions you want answered, but remember they may be unsure or confused about the situation too.