Michael LaSala has just begun Gay and Lesbian Well-Being, a blog on the Psychology Today website. In his first post, LaSala outlines some of the key lessons learned from the many interviews he conducted with families with gay or lesbian children for his new book Coming Out, Coming Home: Helping Families Adjust to a Gay or Lesbian Child.
While adjusting to a child’s coming out can cause stress and potentially harm familial relationships, “parents can go from feeling rejecting, guilty, mournful, and frightened to not only accepting but prizing their gay or lesbian child—and for kids, especially gay kids, nothing feels better than to bask in the warm glow of a parent’s love and approval.”
LaSala outlines some of the behaviors that did not help in allowing for a smooth coming-out process. These included having the parent attribute any problems the child might be having to their sexual orientation. Additionally, when children acted “too gay,” parents often “worr[ied] that their children will be targets of discrimination, hostility, even violence, and this can get in the way of their adjustment and acceptance.”
However, parents who found someone they could talk to about their child’s sexuality or reached out to support groups such as Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays were better able to navigate some of the painful or complicated emotions they might have had. Kids who were doing well in school and developing solid relationships, romantic, and otherwise also made it easier for parents not to worry. It also made parents realize that being gay would not adversely affect the lives of their children. Finally, by not rejecting their gay or lesbian kids, parents earned the gratitude of their children and strengthened the family bond.
In concluding his post, LaSala quotes one of the parents interview in Coming Out, Coming Home:
If a person chooses to … having a gay child and really working with it can be the biggest growth experience of your own life because it forces you to stretch yourself … to stretch your understanding of people…of what love is. I just think if you really go with the flow it is a lesson in compassion and courage. And you watch your child come out and blossom into a wonderful person with a relationship and all that stuff that is normal—and you realize—this is a privilege.