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Hearing: ‘I’m gay’ (or lesbian, bisexual or transgender)

Psychological and Counseling Services Last updated

“I’m gay.”

Hearing these words from your child can be extremely difficult for parents.

For Christian families in particular, these words can create a flood of intense, painful emotions.

It is possible, however, to navigate this part of your family’s journey in a healthy, positive way.

One of the first things I counsel families to do is slow down and breathe.

The person who delivered this news is still your child, the same child you love and adore.

I urge parents to remember their child came to them and shared this very important piece of information, which is not to be taken lightly. The fact that your child (or adult child) shared this with you likely speaks volumes about your relationship. They felt they could share this with you. They trusted you. They decided to be open and honest, rather than keeping this from you. Your child likely also felt that your relationship could withstand this shift. Recognize the courage it required for them to tell you. Can you imagine how afraid they were? (Really think about that for a moment; they were likely terrified of your reaction!) Honor their bravery by letting them know how much you love them and appreciate their openness.

It’s also a great idea to own any discomfort you may be having, rather than trying to pretend everything is OK. Let your child know, “This is really new for me right now. I love you like I always have, but I need some time to think things through.” By making a statement like this, you’re affirming your love for your child and creating space for all the feelings that come up for you.

Some of your feelings may include anger, grief, sadness, guilt, blame, fear, worry, disgust, shock and shame.

Whatever feelings come up for you let them be present. Find time to experience those feelings (rather than avoiding them).

It is important, though, to process the feelings you may have away from the child that shared their news. (They have a lot to process right now as well.) Share your feelings with a trusted friend or family member.

For some folks, seeing a therapist or other counseling professional is a wonderful opportunity to explore your thoughts and reactions in a safe, supportive environment.

It’s also really helpful to educate yourself and connect with others that may be experiencing this same life transition. PFLAG (parents, families, friends and allies united with people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) is a great resource for families. PFLAG’s website ( has many opportunities for support and education as you move toward a greater understanding of your child.

As with any emotionally difficult experience, it’s a time to really care for yourself and do things that help you feel nurtured.

If prayer is something that brings you comfort, pray! If you’re an exercise enthusiast, get in a great workout several times over the next few weeks. Seek out activities that bring you enjoyment and a sense of peace. Gardening, yoga, meditation, dinner with close friends and walks are all ways to create calmness in your life as you begin to understand that path that you and your loved one are on.

Often, grief is a substantial part of hearing about a gay loved one. Grief stems from the loss of the imagined future life you had for your child.

Reassure yourself though—your child’s life may be just as full of love, contentment and purpose as you dreamed, just not the way you dreamed it would unfold.

When all else fails, look back upon your parenting life. Chances are, your family has traversed some pretty difficult circumstances, and continued to thrive. This is no different. With education, compassion and thoughtful conversation, your family can become even closer than before.

And remember, breathe!

Dr. Traci Lowenthal is the owner of Creative Insights Counseling, a counseling agency in Redlands serving individuals, families, and couples. She can be reached at 909-240-7833.