Your Initial Reaction

When parents first learn that a child is gay they experience a wide range of initial reactions, often composed of some combination of the following emotions:

These emotions can be very strong for many parents, and can even be overwhelming at times. Any positive feelings about your child can make this an even more confusing time. Such strong feelings can lead people to do and say things that they might wish later they had not done or said. Below are several suggestions drawn from the experience of parents who have been in this situation.


Keep your options open. It is usually advisable to hold off making any major decisions while you are upset, particularly since what you say and do right now can have a long-term effect on your relationship with your child. If you need some time to think your situation through and are not ready to talk to your child right now you have every right to say so. It is likely that your child has been anticipating a time when he or she would be able to talk to you about this topic and may be anxious to talk, so you might need to be very clear about what you need. You may say something like:

"This is a big shock for me, and I'm not ready to talk about it yet. You're my child and I'll always love you, but right now I need some time to think."

At some point it will be important to talk to your child about this issue, but it is better if you have a chance to feel more grounded before engaging in this process.

Educate yourself. It is crucial that you learn more about your situation. Most people have at least some misconceptions about homosexuality, and finding reliable, factual information can help you avoid any unnecessary anguish. In addition to learning more about homosexuality, knowing more about the kind of reaction you are having can also be very reassuring. There are several books for parents available (click here to see a list), and the Frequently Asked Questions section has information from several professional organizations, including the American Medical Association, American Psychological Association, and the American Psychiatric Association.

Get support. It is common for parents who have learned that a child is gay to temporarily isolate themselves, withdrawing from friends and family members because they don't know what to say about their situation. While this reaction is understandable, it deprives parents of support at a time when they need it most. It is important that you talk over your situation with someone, whether it is a friend, family member, religious advisor, counselor, therapist, or members of a support group. If you are concerned about the reaction of friends or family, a support group may be the safest place to talk about your situation where you are guaranteed an accepting environment. The largest network of support groups in the United States is Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG).

Trust the experience of other parents. Many others before you have faced the same situation you are facing now. Some considered experienced it as a profound crisis while others did not have as much difficulty, but for all parents there is some form of adjustment that takes place. The collective experience of these mothers and fathers suggests that you will feel better, though it may take some time. Many parents come out of the adjustment process with perspectives that they could not have imagined at the outset, and say that, although it was the last thing they expected, they are better for the experience. Only you can determine what your final response will be, but for now trust that it is possible to learn and grow.

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