No parent knows how to raise a gay kid, or how to navigate the parent-child relationship of a possibly gay son or daughter. I can’t pretend to know how to parent. I’ve never done it. But I’ve been parented. And I’m gay. So here are a few things to consider if you’re a parent and want to do your best to support your possibly gay kid.
1. Work through your own issues. Most adults have internalized fears, anxieties, and concerns related to their own parents. And these issues, unsurprisingly, often manifest themselves in the ways that they deal with their own children. Did your dad yell too much? Maybe you do, too, because that’s all that you know about fathering. Or maybe you’re not firm enough, because you fear becoming your father, and your ten-year-old’s become an asshole. Either way, counseling may be helpful for you. Or perhaps consider talking these things through, and reconciling, with your parents. The only way to do do anything about your daddy issues is to do anything–literally anything–about them.
And if you have any addictions, insecurities, crippling fears, or anxieties, work through them. If you don’t, they’ll likely pass on to your children in one way or another. Kids eat their parents’ actions and perspectives like food, and these become a part of them. But don’t let this cause further anxiety. Let it motivate you to improve. Because you can.
2. Try to cultivate relationships of openness and honesty with your children. Teach your child that no question will be ignored or dismissed. They may not get the full answer to everything at once. But at least give them an answer, so that they know, when it comes to questions, you’re a good person to go to. Otherwise, the questions will go everywhere else: friends, teachers, the internet, etc. At roughly the age of twelve, this guy typed “porn” into google, hoping to discover the meaning of the word that had come up at school. Perhaps I should have asked my parents…
3. (Related to #2) Talk about sex and sexuality. Find out when his or her school begins discussing these things and how, and get ahead of the curve. Most kids, especially boys, learn the ins and outs of sex through the playground and porn. Don’t let that be the case for your kid. Again, you don’t want your eleven-year-old typing “masturbation” into the school computer.
4. Have a selection of books on difficult issues around the house. Kids may not want to go to you first for certain questions, so it can be helpful to have available resources that they can pull off the family bookshelf and read discreetly like a Playboy while you’re folding laundry or making dinner. Get some books on sexuality, on puberty, on being gay and Christian, etc., etc. Show them where to find good information by having it available in your house.
5. Have an internet filter in your home, and put off smartphones, tablets, and personal computers for as long as possible. Make sure your kids know these items are on loan and may be subject to inspection. A computer is an airport, and you’re the TSA, albeit a smiling and loving and forgiving TSA, who still wants passengers to have as much freedom as possible and will try everything else before dragging the kid off the plane by his feet.
But know that if you make porn available to them, they’re probably going to use it. Even if they don’t want to intellectually. Even if they know it’s bad. Even if they’re a “good kid.” Trust me. I know. I was the “good kid.” I was the “very good kid.” And I looked at porn, even despite myself.
6. Have parent friends. Get to know couples that you can go to for advice and swap ideas with. Also get to know your kids’ friends’ parents. You can fill each other in on details of what’s going on in their lives and help each other navigate difficult social situations. And they can give you parenting tricks (like how to set your van’s audio to super loud in the backseat but silent in the front, so that the kids chatting in the back have to yell, and you hear every word).
7. Know that you will be an imperfect parent. Every parent makes mistakes. Every child ends up with a handful of issues. That’s normal. Even “really good” parenting can result in a “difficult child.” Just do your best. Know that much (most?) of your child is out of your control. Ask for help when you need it. Forgive repeatedly. And never give up on them.
More on Catholicism and homosexuality here.