"Mum, Dad, I'm gay"... Now what? 3 years ago

"Mum, Dad, I'm gay"... Now what?

Introducing David Carey, our resident child psychologist. David has over 25 years experience in both clinical and educational settings. The author of several books, he's also a regular contributor to the Moncrieff show on Newstalk 106-108FM. 

There is nothing more important to a human being than the love and acceptance of their parent or parents. Without it we are left empty and rootless to flounder in a world of confusion and struggle until we get help. With it we go out into the world secure in the knowledge that we are both lovable and loved.

Parental love is the single most important protective factor in avoiding mental health issues.

There is nothing more stressful in the life of a child than the decision to tell your parents you are gay. It is beyond doubt one of the hardest truths to divulge. All children know their sexual orientation from quite early on; it is in the early to mid-teens when we become fully aware of our sexuality. Heterosexual children have a struggle to control the impulses of the body with the maturing morality of the mind. Gay children face countless other issues above and beyond what their heterosexual peers ever go through.

Gay children are well aware of the societal biases against gays. They’re usually afraid their parents have the same biases and some may have heard their parents make unwitting remarks. The need for love and acceptance brings with it a deep fear of losing love and acceptance. As parents we are called on to accept our children for who they are.

 

What to do?

The first thing to do when your child tells you they are gay, bisexual or transgender is to take a deep breath and relax.

There is no need to rush into conversation. You may be shocked but it’s important to remain calm and collected. Your child will immediately feel your anxiety and become distressed. This distress may cause them to fear talking openly to you again or to believe you don’t love them. Taking time to let it sink in and remain calm is the best protective factor against the feeling of being unloved.

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You may need to talk to someone. What you need is a good listener with a loving outlook on life and people.

If you don’t have someone like that in your life, it’s best to find a professional such as your GP, a counsellor or psychologist to chat with you about your concerns. Be sure to ask the professional about their attitudes towards gay people... even professionals can have strong biases.

Educate yourself. Be sure you get the right information. Ridding yourself of any misconceptions is important. Remember your child can be the best source of information and may be the best person to teach you about their world.

Keep the lines of communication open at all times. Remember the power of the hug.

Ask your child if they need any particular support or assistance from you. Be willing to assist them and support them as necessary. By doing this, they will come to you in times of need in the future.

Realise your child trusted you so much they could tell you the deepest truth they hold about themselves. This means you have been a good parent and done everything right. You should feel proud of yourself and proud of your child and their courage to be open about their sexuality.

Provide advice if needed but be prepared not to advise if it is not needed. Most of all, continue to love and cherish them.

RESOURCES: Where to get advice and confidential support

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The LGBT Helpline is a non-judgmental and confidential service providing listening, support and information to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, their family and friends, and to those who are questioning if they might be LGBT.

Gay Switchboard Ireland has been supporting the community for 40 years, making it the oldest LGBT+ support service in Ireland. The helpline is open seven days a week on 01 872 1055.