Dear Dr. Michelle:
My daughter came out to me a few months ago and told me that she is a lesbian. She is 16. I love her. I want to be open-minded and always try to say the right things to support her and show her I am there for her. Privately though, I’m having a harder time accepting this than I thought I would. I want to just get over these feelings and move on. Help.
It is normal for you to struggle with new information about your child and you are doing the right thing by trying to figure out how to accept your daughter’s sexual orientation. This is an area of your daughter’s life in which you have no control over. However, you do have control in whether you choose to accept it. If you choose to not accept her for who she is and who may love, it could lead to dire consequences for your relationship with each other.
To help you keep things in perspective, make a list of actions and behaviors that you think you would need to display to show your acceptance. Then make a list of all the ways you showed your daughter full acceptance of her before she came out. What is different about those lists? You might be surprised to find little to no difference.
Make a List
Many actions and behaviors on your list are probably things you are already doing, such as loving her, supporting her financially, attending her extracurricular events, encouraging her building positive friendships, helping her discover her talents and abilities and the list probably goes on. If any of the ways in which you support your daughter now do not go against your own moral or ethical code of living, then those things do not need to change based on your daughter’s sexual orientation. Continue to behave and treat your daughter with the same level of love and support in all the ways you did before you learned of this new information.
If there are some differences on your lists, focus on trying to understand the reasons for those differences. Ask yourself the tough questions about why her sexual orientation would require different behaviors or actions.
Accepting her sexual orientation does not automatically mean that you won’t have some personal feelings to work through. Dig deep and identify all the thoughts and feelings you are having. Be honest with yourself. What are your concerns? Are your feelings rooted in biases or prejudices you have been taught to believe? Perhaps it’s not that you are having a hard time accepting your child’s sexual orientation, but rather, you have fears and concerns about what other people might think. If this is true, it will be important to build up your own personal strength to withstand the judgements and feelings of others. If your social network won’t accept you or your daughter, you might have to face re-evaluating that social network and expanding your personal support system.
As you work through your feelings, search out resources that can help you. Set yourself on a path of self-discovery. Get educated about sexual orientation and resolve to learn more so that you can change or challenge any biases and prejudices. Excellent materials exist that help educate others on the struggles and challenges the LGBTQ community faces on a personal level and as a community.
- Always My Child by Kevin Jennings
- What If Someone I Know Is Gay by Eric Marcus
- Is It A Choice? by Eric Marcus
- My Child Is Gay by Bryce McDougall
You could also consider joining support groups for parents. PFLAG, a national organization with local chapters, provides great resources for parents.
Dear Dr. Michelle blog posts are informational in nature. The posts are not meant to take the place of consulting your physician, mental health professional, or other qualified health providers regarding your well-being or the well-being of others. Submitting a question does not establish a client/therapist relationship.
Submit Your Question on mental health and/or family relations to Dr. Michelle K. Murray.