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If your child recently ‘came out’, sadness is a normal and valid feeling to experience.
No, no, no!! It’s absolutely not wrong to feel sad. Unfortunately, in our attempt to ‘do the right thing’, we can sometimes dismiss or worse, punish ourselves for our feelings. I hear too often that parents are trying to suppress their feelings in order to be supportive of their LGBTQIA+ child. They believe their sadness translates to unsupportive. Sadly, many parents have also been told that “it’s not about you, ‘suck it up’, it’s about your child”, which also reinforces that sadness is wrong.
First of all, I want to be clear, it is about you. It is about your child and you. You’ll hear this from me a bit. When we are talking about 2 or more people, we are talking about feelings that belong to 2 or more people. One person’s feelings do not negate another. You can have your feelings and still be supportive of your child. Your feelings do not equal unsupportive or unloving. It’s your words, behaviours, actions that will speak to how supportive and loving you are.
Behaviour is what demonstrates support and love towards your child, not how you’re feeling on the inside. Of course, if you feel like you don’t love your child, or don’t want to be supportive, then that will likely mean your behaviour will reflect that. However, I’m going to assume that if you are here, reading this, then this is not you.
We are complex beings. We are capable of feeling a whole range of emotions at one time. This next statement might be stating the obvious, but here we go. The good news is that this means you can feel sadness and love at the same time. You can feel sadness and still be supportive. You can feel all the feelings you are feeling right now and still love and support your child.
You may need to work a little harder on your behaviour, language and actions if you’re struggling on the inside, so as to not project this onto your child. Honouring your feelings needs to be done, separate from your interactions with your child.
How do you do this? There are a couple of things to keep in mind. It’s important to be honest with yourself. Do the work that you need to do, to process your feelings. You’re human and you can only suppress those feelings for so long and the results of that never turn out too well.
You probably already know that and that’s why you’re reading this. The other thing to know is that your child will likely see right through you and make up their own conclusions about what you’re thinking and feeling. From my experience, their conclusion is usually worse than the truth.
This work that I’m talking about can look a variety of different ways, depending on your personal circumstance. What it isn’t is sharing with or burdening your child. That may sound contradictory to previous paragraphs, but bare with me, it will become clear. Talk with someone, who is not your child, possibly someone who is not connected to you and your child, someone who is not also affected and experiencing their own struggles.
This could be a friend, a family member or a professional. I have a guide to help parents choose who to talk to. I’d encourage you to take a look as I go over a variety of important points, including ensuring that you have explicit consent from your child if you’re going to talk to anyone other than a professional who is bound by laws and ethics to maintain yours and your child’s confidentiality. Reach out to me via email or social media messaging if you’d like a copy. (links below)
How do you be honest and open without burdening your child? The age and maturity of your child can certainly be taken into consideration here, however, regardless of your child’s age, it is not their responsibility to help you work through your struggles and emotions. Especially when it’s about them.
So, what do you do? Be honest, without the detail. They are already working through this for themselves, and this is a crucial time for them to know they can count on you. It’s also important to note that regardless of the age of your child they will know that something has changed, that you’re struggling in some way. Don’t leave them to fill the gaps for themselves. Trust me, it won’t be pretty. Share with them a brief statement of how you’re feeling and reassure them that this doesn’t change the way you feel about them and that you are working through it.
An example of how the conversation might go, to get you started.
‘Shane, thank you for sharing this with me. I am so glad you did. I will always love you and nothing will change that. You might’ve noticed that I’ve been a little sad lately, but I wanted to let you know that I am talking to someone, and it is not a reflection of how I feel about you. I will always be here for you.’
To sum up, your feelings are important, they are valid, and they do not translate to you being unsupportive. Your child needs you to work through your feelings in a timely manner, just as much as you do, even if you don’t recognise this right now. It is important that you acknowledge your feelings and seek out some appropriate support to help you work through this. Be honest with your child about how you’re feeling without sharing the details. And most importantly, be honest with yourself, don’t try and do it on your own.
As I always mention, I love to support and witness the healing, growth and deepening of the relationship between a parent and their child (regardless of their age). If you’d like to know more about the support that’s available to you, book a free call to discuss further.
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Remember to take care of yourself. Like the flight attendants always say “put your own oxygen mask on first”.