But, isn’t it just a phase?

This is one of the most common questions I get asked about LGBTQA+ young people. “Isn’t it just a phase? Couldn’t it be a stage they are going through? Didn’t we all go through stages of experimentation? I remember when I was younger, I kissed a girl at a party and it was kind of exciting. Isn’t this just like that? They’re a teenager/child/young adult, isn’t it normal to experiment?”

Or it can be that the person is older and the questions are more like, “is this a midlife crisis?” or “are they just reacting to …” {insert stressful or traumatic experience} or “are they just trying to get back at me?” {or someone else in their life, perhaps an ex-partner}

Well… you could be right. Maybe it is a phase… BUT maybe it isn’t. The reality is, it is unlikely to be a phase, however, regardless it is how they are feeling right now and they need you to believe them and continue to love them unconditionally. It would have been very difficult for them to share such personal information with you, regardless of your relationship and connection; there can be a lot of fear.

Let’s explore this for a minute. Let’s say it is a phase. What does this really mean? What is a phase? A phase is an experience people have for a period of time. It changes over time. It doesn’t make a person’s experience any less real, or their feelings any less important or powerful.

Take a moment to reflect on what your key values are as a parent? Are they to love and support your child? To encourage them to be the best that they can be? To support them to develop their own identities and become independent, happy, healthy and functional adults? What have you done in other phases they’ve been through?

I would ask you “is there any harm in allowing them the space to figure this out?”

Now, let’s consider the alternative. Perhaps it isn’t a phase. The chances are they have been thinking about this for a very long time, that they have been rehearsing this conversation with you, over and over again. I imagine it will have taken an enormous amount of courage to tell you. Let’s face it, whether you feel it or not, you are one of the most important people in their lives and they want your approval and acceptance. The risks are very real for them. They have a lot to lose if you are not ok and they can never know until they actually tell you.

Let’s consider how your child may feel if they tell you something important about themselves and you don’t believe them……… I know this can be difficult. You want the best for your child. You want to protect them and keep them safe. You want to help them make ‘sensible’ choices in their lives. And let’s face it, most parents have ideas and dreams for their children and perhaps this news doesn’t quite fit.

Now imagine how they might feel if they tell you this important information and you DO believe them and accept and celebrate them…….. (You may or may not get to this place straight away)

My tips –

  • If you feel like it might be a phase keep it to yourself. You telling them or others that you think it’s a phase doesn’t help anyone. Remember phases have a time limit, so if it is, it will pass.
  • Keep in mind “what if it isn’t a phase?” What is most important to you? Your child’s health and wellbeing or being right?
  • Talk to someone!!! Be mindful not to share your child’s personal information without their permission. If they haven’t told anyone else, you might have to seek professional support to ensure their privacy. (Keep an eye out for my ‘Tips for finding a support person’)

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