From hormone changes to academic pressures, growing up can be tough enough, but a whole host of additional pressures, stresses and concerns arise when it comes to sexuality. You might feel confused or anxious about what it all means and what kind of impact it may have on your life, and the most daunting part for many is discussing it – or ‘coming out’ – to your parents. How should you talk to your parents about your sexuality?
1. Think about your reasons for telling your parents. Do you simply want to honest about who you are and live openly, or do you feel like you are being pressured or expected to come out? You should never let yourself feel pressured into having a conversation like this – it should be done when it feels right and when you feel ready.
2. Timing is important. Whether after a family dinner, or over a weekend when nothing much is going on, pick a time that is calm, private and stress-free to have this chat. The last thing you want is interruptions, additional stress, or one of your parents having to rush off to do something important.
3. Find an LGBT+ community – whether in-person or online – that may be able to give you advice and support before, during and after the conversation with your parents. It can feel like a weight is off your shoulders having a safe space in which to truly be yourself, openly discuss your concerns from others’ that are going through similar things, and not feel as though there is any judgment about your sexuality.
4. Consider coming out to another family member or close friend first. If you feel someone other than your parents will have the supportive reaction that you need in this situation, it is okay to talk about your sexuality with them first to test the waters – and they may perhaps be able to offer some helpful advice on how to best approach your parents about this. Additionally, if you feel like one parent may have a very different reaction to the other, it is absolutely okay to tell one parent first.
5. If you are financially dependent on your parents, or have a sense that they may react badly, consider whether now is really the right time – and have a safety plan in place (perhaps speaking to another family member or a friend in advance in case you need a place to stay for a while) to ensure that you look after your physical and mental health in the case of any potential fall-out.
6. During the conversation, don’t dance around the topic – speak calmly, clearly and directly – and answer your parents’ questions without hostility. These kinds of conversations can take a lot of emotional energy, so you are better off getting straight to the point and speaking with confidence.
7. Hopefully your parents will react in a loving, understanding and supportive way, but if not, stay strong and make sure you (calmly) stand up for yourself – don’t allow yourself to be put down or pressure into taking back your words.
8. Think about resources you could provide your parents with – such as leaflets, website links, or associations to get in touch with – that may help them to better understand you.
9. Be patient. For many parents it takes time to understand and accept what you have told them, so try to be patient and give them time – and be clear that you are open to have further conversations another time if they have any later questions that might help them to better understand.
10. Don’t forget about self-care. The most important thing is that you look after your mental health and wellbeing, so ensure you take time to look after yourself physically and mentally.
Remember: this article is merely to give some general advice, but there is no right or wrong way to have this conversation – do what you feel most comfortable with, in the best way you can for you.