Parenting LBGT Teens

Eileen Bailey Health Guide
  • Having a sexual orientation other than heterosexual - lesbian, gay, bisexual or transexual (LGBT) -  is certainly more accepted than it was even a few years ago. Where LGBT teens were once frequently shunned or ostracized by peers and possibly their family, they now have community resources and more support than ever. Of course, there are still some that don’t accept LGBT as “legitimate” thinking those that are need to be “cured.” Fortunately, this concept is not as prevalent as it once was.


    According to HealthChildren.org, one in every ten people is gay. [1] LBGT isn’t limited by race, age or income - they come from all different backgrounds and all different walks of life. Chances are you, a family member or a friend has a teen who is gay - even if he or she has not yet “come out of the closet.” And the best thing to remember is they are our children, they need unconditional love and support, just like every child needs. Sexual orientation doesn’t take away from who your child is and all the reasons you love him or her- it simply defines who they are attracted to, physically and emotionally.

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    As parents, despite your best intentions and your heart full of love, the news that your child is gay can leave you feeling confused. Your first reaction may be to wonder if you did something to cause this - rest assured, you did not - being gay isn’t the result of bad parenting nor is it a choice your child has made. You may wonder what this means to your child’s future - will he or she be able to experience having a family? And how it impacts you - will you still have grandchildren? You may be a little embarrassed or unsure of how extended family and friends will react.


    And while you may need a little time to adjust to the news, keep in mind that the news  is about your child, not about you. It probably took a great deal of thought, introspection and worry before he or she worked up the courage to share this. Your teen may be worried about the same things you are but they are probably also worried about being rejected by you, their friends and classmates. They probably feel “different” and may be ashamed of their feelings. They may worry about AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, about being discriminated against or teased in school and in after-school activities. At a time when fitting in is so very important, your teen may feel like an outsider.


    The following are some tips for helping your teen:


    • Let him or her know you love them - unconditionally. Remind him or her that you love the person they are inside- and their sexual orientation doesn’t change that.
    • Provide support and encouragement and make sure you listen to how they are feeling.
    • Talk about “coming out” and what it means to him or her. Don’t push anyone to come out until they are ready. You may suggest telling only a few close friends or family first before announcing it to the entire school. Be sure these are friends your teen can trust not only to keep their secret but to be supportive.
    • Watch for signs of depression, such as withdrawing from friends or activities, low self-esteem, falling grades. According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, recent studies have shown an increased rate of suicide among LGBT teens. [2]
    • Offer counseling or therapy to your teen if he or she is having a difficult time or is uncomfortable with being gay or bisexual. A therapist can help him or her work through issues that come up as your teen is adjusting to their sexuality.
    • Keep communication open about relationships, sex and sexually transmitted diseases. Your answers to questions about these topics shouldn’t be different than those you would provide to a heterosexual teen.


  • Check out resources to help you, your teen and your family with support and information. One such organization is Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG): www.pflag.org.

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    References:


    [2] Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Adolescents, 2012, Staff Writer, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry


    [1] Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Teens: Facts for Teens and Their Parents, Updated 2012, Staff Writer, American Academy of Pediatrics


    Parenting Gay and Lesbian Teens, 2010, July 22, Michael Ungar, Ph.D. Psychology Today


Published On: April 09, 2013