An exclusive feature*
“We have the opportunity to nurture our children and foster their growth as we learn to let go and allow them to reach their full potential. This is one of the best gifts we can give to our children.”
Excerpt from “Mothering with Courage”, by Bonnie Compton
Before you became a parent, did you have dreams for your children? For yourself?
Perhaps your hopes and dreams allowed you to hold onto your aspirations
and visions for your child’s future.
In my book, Mothering with Courage, I remind parents that “Yet when we hold tight to our hopes and dreams—without taking time to examine them—they may easily become expectations. Expectations that limit our possibility and our child’s.”
Our preconceived notions about how our children will be, easily become our unrealistic expectations. We may believe we know what’s best for our child. And we often expend a lot of energy wanting things to be different than they are. In doing this, we try to control our kids which creates suffering for all.
When a child or teen begins to question their sexuality perhaps wondering if they’re gay, or questions their gender identity, how you respond is critical to their well being. Your words matter. Your messages matter. Your child will take their childhood messages into their adulthood. What message do you want to send them about their sexuality?
Although you may be surprised and struggle with the idea of your child or teen’s news, chances are they’ve been keeping this secret for awhile. They may actually feel relieved by sharing their secret. It is normal for you to experience a multitude of emotions such as grief (letting go of who you envisioned your child to be), shame or self-doubt as a parent (wondering what you did wrong?), or anxiety (worrying about how difficult your child’s life might be).
It’s important that you reach out for support for yourself as you’re supporting your child or teen. Although trusted friends and family can be very supportive, it’s also important to educate yourself with the help of a professional. You may also want to reach out to PFLAG (Parents, Family, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays), a national support and advocacy group primarily for parents of LGBT people.
Your support as a parent is key to your child or teen’s emotional wellbeing. The following tips will help you navigate this journey with your child:
- Create a supportive environment
- Listen…without needing to fix
- Welcome and acknowledge all feelings
- Encourage a child to be themselves
- Learn from your child…they may have a lot to teach you about love and acceptance
- Be your child’s advocate
- Assure them they have your unconditional love always
Navigating discussions with extended family members, especially older ones may be difficult due to their conservative views. It’s important to create conversations to both educate family members and enlist their support. Here are a few tips:
- Talk with grandparents and other extended family before a family gathering
- Allow and be accepting of their feelings as they may be surprised or struggle with the information
- Let them know that there is nothing wrong with your child and is not a “phase” they are going through
- Remind them that their grandchild is still the same special person they have always loved
- Share ways they can be supportive to your child and family
Grandparents, you can be a wonderful support for your grandchildren and adult children. It’s important to follow their lead – do not shut out conversation.
For more information, here are some suggested resources for parents and grandparents:
Publisher’s Weekly, 10 Essential Books for Parents of Transgender Children:
PFLAG suggested resources:
*Children & Sexuality is an exclusive feature for grandparentslink.com by Bonnie Compton, APRN, BC, CPNP. Bonnie has worked with families for more than thirty years as a child and adolescent therapist, parent coach, and pediatric nurse practitioner and is passionate about making a difference in the lives of children and families. In doing so, Bonnie helps parents and grandparents create healthy boundaries and relationships. She is a writer, speaker, workshop and retreat facilitator, and hosts her own podcast radio program, Wholehearted Parenting Radio, which is available on iTunes, Web Talk Radio, Radioactive Broadcasting Network, and Stitcher Radio. Bonnie lives in Charleston, SC, with her husband. She is a mom of four adult children and believes that being a mother has been her most important job; and loves being Gramma to her three beautiful granddaughters. Bonnie is also the author of a new book, Mothering with Courage, Available here!, and also has an online course Mothering with Courage Daily OM