"My son just told us he thinks he is gay. My husband is angry and I can’t stop crying. We have no idea what to say to him? Can you help us?"

We frequently receive calls just like this one – sometimes several in a row. They all have this in common: they are from parents broken by a few small words that turned their world upside down. What do we say to them?

The power of listening

First, we say nothing. We listen as they express their confusion, questions, fears, grief, regrets or shattered dreams. We give them a safe place to vent those initial thoughts and feelings that they may not even know how to identify. We aren’t shocked by anything they say, and what they share goes no further. We reassure parents that their feelings are valid, even though they may need to think carefully about how they choose to express them within their family and community.

Understand what your child needs

Later, we gently begin to ask questions. What details has your son (or daughter) given you? Is this something they are wondering about or something they feel certain about? Is this just a feeling, or are they in a relationship? How do they feel about it? What do they want/expect from you?

Often parents will not yet have answers to these questions because their initial reaction was one of shock and dismay. It is important to explore what message your son or daughter is trying to convey to you. Do they want support? Blessing? Help? Validation? Counselling? We can help you feel more prepared for the next conversation.

Seek professional help

We can also recommend resources to help you take the next steps in your journey. There are some very helpful books, articles, stories and support services that can assist you as you work on formulating the kind of response your child needs. They can help you explore what other families in your position have learned, done, said, thought and how they responded. Please see our resources and referral sections for suggestions on where to go next.

To continue to process your own feelings about this revelation, you may wish to seek the assistance of your pastor or a local counsellor. We can also make suggestions. We would be honoured to pray with you and for you as you seek God’s will and wisdom for your specific circumstances. There is a delicacy to standing for truth and righteousness while still conveying God’s love that requires wisdom, grace and the support of fellow believers. We would be glad to be a small part of your support system as you seek God’s guidance for your family. To speak to a counsellor, please call us at 1.800.661.9800.

© 2010 Focus on the Family (Canada) Association. All rights reserved.

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