Unpopular opinion: Parenting well is not doing what you think is best for your child.
Hear me out.
Compassion is the desire to help someone and is the first step in my CARE process, but a stumbling block parents often fall over is the reality that having true compassion for your kiddo requires you to take yourself out of the picture and let go of what you believe is best for your child, that you know for sure what your child needs.
Parents want their kiddos to be happy and live a life full of love and joy and those are all good things, but too often when a parent learns that their kiddo is queer, they immediately go to all of the dark places that fear and shame can take them. They fear their child will be bullied at school and that they will be physically unsafe in many spaces, they anticipate rejection and worry about a life of challenge.
Those fears are valid and I am too keenly aware of the realities that LGBTQ+ people face today. I’m not in any way minimizing those realities, but parents need to take a beat and recognize that those fears are based on what the parent believes to be true and their desire to take actions to protect their queer kiddo are coming from their own view of the world.
Kids are in a different place and to parent them well we need to take ourselves out of the picture and discover what the child needs at any given time.
A great concern is that a queer kid will be socially ostracized, but it’s important to recognize that your kid may be coming to you after sharing with friends what they’ve learned about their new identity. They may have already found a space of connectedness and affirmation that makes them feel comfortable taking the next step and telling you who they are. Rather than feeling hurt that they didn’t come to you first, stop and recognize that,
- you raised a kid who has strong social skills and,
- consider what about you made them hesitant to share this information with you first.
Perhaps they were worried that you would rush to fix and save based on your beliefs about what is best for them rather than learning what they need at that moment.
Let’s practice. When your kiddo comes to you to share new information about their gender and/or sexual identity respond with:
- Thank you for trusting me enough to share this with me.
- I love you. (with no conditional language!)
- What can I do to support you right now?
Take the time to truly listen. Believe that your child knows themselves better than anyone, even you. The rest of the process follows: Awareness, Respect, and Empathy. Ready to learn more? Give me a call!
If you need a primer, please download my “Guide to Understanding LGBTQIA+”.