Has your child just told you that he is attracted to people of the same sex as him? Advice from Thibault Bataille, psychologist.
While you waited wisely in front of the high school gate, you surprised your teenager kissing another boy? In the middle of dinner, your teenager has just told you that she has fallen in love with a girl? Learning about your child’s homosexuality is hard news for some parents who need time to accept it. How to broach the subject with your child? How to react to his “coming out” and help him overcome the gaze of others? Answers from Thibault Bataille, psychologist.
Is your child gay? Let him tell you about it
adolescence is a period during which we seek ourselves, we question ourselves, we grope and discover their sexuality. become aware of his homosexuality can be a long and complex step. And even if society is more tolerant than before regarding gay couplesrevealing one’s true sexual identity remains a delicate act, “especially when the child realizes that he is not in the norm“, explains Thibault Bataille. Above all, telling your parents that you are attracted to someone of the same sex means taking the risk of upsetting the image they had of you and above all, taking the risk to disappoint them. Indeed, “all the parents make a representation of their child, they project and imagine a future for them and they see this future being completely called into question. And let’s be clear, the vast majority of parents do not plan to have a gay child because they are afraid that he will be excluded, rejected, mocked and therefore unhappy“, specifies the psychologist. However, “no parent wants their child to bottle up their feelings and hide who they really are, something that would also make them unhappy“So it’s up to your teen to decide whether or not he wants to talk to you about his attractions, his doubts or how he feels. But so that he can take the initiative to talk to you about it, “he must feel comfortable and free to be able to discuss subjects that are difficult for him“, he continues. And to add that “the most important thing is to respect the privacy of the teenager and to foster a climate conducive to talking between him and you: this requires benevolence, open-mindedness and patience“. In short, if he wants to and feels that the climate is favorable to listening and dialogue, he will naturally talk to you about it.
Coming out: how to react when the announcement is made?
“A teenager can have trouble finding what he likes and has the right to experiment with several things: his choices are often far from final!“
If your teenager takes the initiative to talk to you about it and that it does what is commonly called his “coming out”, consider this as a nice sign of trust in you: he thinks it’s important for you to know, thinks you won’t judge him and even better, that you will support it. So, whether you take it with tolerance, whether you have trouble digesting it or even find this idea inconceivable, your teen’s sexual orientation whether homosexual, bi or straight – does not concern you at all. Your teenager expects you to respect his choices. Being disappointed or worried are certainly completely normal reactions, but they generally fade over time. Besides, “it is not necessary to want at all costs to accept this idea when your teenager speaks to you about it: you can very well take some time (a few days or more if you feel the need) for reflection which will allow you to take hindsight, better understand what your child is feeling, express your apprehensions and fears, and gradually digest the news“, reassures the specialist. “What is important is to show him that you still love him – even if you had not envisaged this future for him, that it will take time to get used to this idea – and that what he might see as a rejection of his person is really just worry“. Also, be careful not to stigmatize it and place it at all costs”in a box“. Because no, young gay men are not necessarily mannered and not all lesbians look like tomboys. In other words, your child’s sexual orientation cannot be guessed from their physical appearance and vice versa. In the same way, if your child dates someone of the same sex for a certain period of time, this does not necessarily register him in a definitive way in a homosexuality: “a teenager may struggle to find what he likes and is allowed to experience many things. His choices are often far from final!“, assures the expert.
Listen to him and advise him
Finally, try to find the right distance: be present and listen, but not too curious. You have to know how to respect his privacy and limit himself to talking to him about contraceptive methods (the pill, male or female condoms, etc.), the dangers of risky behavior and not hesitate to ask him how he feels at school (his friends know about it, is he being teased, etc. You can also suggest that he meet his or her boyfriend or girlfriend, if he or she wishes. This will show him that you trust him, that you support him and it can also reassure you. But there again, there’s no rush: take the time you need to be fully comfortable with this idea, to find your new bearings and to really be ready to meet this person.
What does your disappointment and concern reflect?
“You don’t become gay and you don’t choose it! To digest, the best thing is to give yourself time and above all not to break your parent/child relationship. Indeed, as parents, we project things and we there are also a lot of questions like “what are people going to say”, etc. When your child told you about his homosexuality, it was your outlook that changed, but in the end, the important thing is that your daughter be happy and fulfilled in her life as a woman. I speak from knowledge of the facts, because my mother was shocked when she found out that I was a lesbian. But after a few difficult months, she especially saw that her daughter had remained same, and our complicity today is intact. The entourage is important, if you were close, it has to last, there is no reason and do not feel guilty” (Laurelle69)
Indeed, parents may have legitimate fears about the future of their homosexual child. Some have fear of the reaction of their loved ones, the gaze of others, that he is not accepted in society or that he suffers real discrimination at school and in his future professional environment. For others, it’s the fear of STDs or the fear of not having grandchildren. Indeed, parents very often hope to be grandparents and homosexuality makes this family pattern a little more complex to construct, but not for all that impossible. Often, it is a painful mourning for the parents, especially since it is accompanied in most cases by deep guilt: the guilt of not having succeeded in transmitting the values that we wanted to transmit to him, the guilt of having failed in education, the guilt of having given a bad image of the “traditional couple”…”Some parents may have thoughts like “what did I do wrong?”, “what didn’t I do?” or “what have I done too much?“, says Thibault Bataille, “these feelings of guilt are normal, but unfortunately, these parents will never find satisfactory answers“. So, no need to think about forever, “it is better to turn to a listening professional, such as a psychologist or an association who can offer them a space to speak and help them to take a step back and relieve themselves of guilt“. In any case, know that we cannot explain the cause of such or such sexual orientation, what is certain is that the way of educating a child cannot be responsible for homosexuality. And above all, “there is no fault or blame when it comes to your child’s feelings and identity, especially if their choices make them happy“. Also, do you have to tell all the siblings? Yes, if your brothers and sisters ask you what’s going on and they are old enough to understand. Because “it is better to avoid secrets and unsaid within a family“, confirms the psychologist.
A book and a film to address homosexuality. When parents cannot find the words to talk to their children about issues related to sexuality and all that ensues, films, podcasts, YouTube channels, or even books can provide them with answers and sometimes silence some doubts in the teenager.
An association for a better dialogue between parents and children
Contact associations are present throughout France. Their teams, made up of heterosexuals, lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transsexuals and their relatives, are there to help families understand and accept their child’s sexual orientation, to provide advice people wishing to announce their homosexuality, to fight against discrimination and homophobia as well as to prevent risky behavior, signs of depressive or suicidal behavior. They also work in schools with middle and high school students. A free and anonymous helpline is available every day except Sunday (0805 69 64 64).
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