When any kid begins dating, it can be a little weird for parents. It’s one of those unmistakable signs that your baby is growing up.
Your child is going off into the world in a different way. They’re making strong emotional connections that have nothing to do with you. They may be (gulp!) doing sexual things.
You may be delighted for your kid, remembering how fun and exciting dating was when you were their age. Or you may be completely freaked out, remembering how horny you were and the mischief you got up to. Kids’ dating brings up lots of stuff for most parents.
Then, Add Orientation or Gender Identity…
Even more feelings may get stirred up for parents of an LGBTQ child, especially if you’re straight and cisgender.
Your kid’s romantic and eventual sexual experiences will be just that much different from your own. You might get sucked into the totally unhelpful mental path about what same-sex couples do in bed—not something you want to think about with any child. (Just…don’t go there.) Instead of introducing you to the girls you’d once envisioned him dating, your son is bringing home guys, which is a reminder that his life isn’t what you’d thought it would be. It’s just different.
If the community you live in is less than accepting of LGBTQ folks, your child’s dating life is one more challenge. It’s a visible demonstration of the way they don’t fit the straight, cis stereotype. Will your child be ridiculed or mistreated? Will you be harmed socially? Hopefully not…but you might worry.
All these feelings are reasonable and understandable. They don’t mean you love your child any less; they don’t mean you aren’t being supportive. They’re just feelings. Notice them, accept them, maybe talk about them with someone you trust…just don’t let them bog you down. They’re only a tiny piece of your overall relationship with your child.
What matters more is how you interact with your child. As much as possible, handle their dating relationships the same way you’d handle any other kid’s.
Young LGBTQ people tell me that even loving, supportive parents may have a hard time talking with them about dating. They see their parents ask their siblings about boyfriends and girlfriends…but not ask them as often. That hurts. It emphasizes their difference and can leave them feeling they’re missing out on an aspect of your love.
No matter who your teen or young adult dates, they can benefit from parents’ advice and support. Same-sex relationships come in as many forms as cis, straight ones. They can be tender, passionate, abusive, supportive, distant, conflictual, mellow, life-enhancing—the whole gamut. You know your child (gay or straight, cis or queer). You can be a sounding board. You can share whatever relationship wisdom you’ve learned over the years (just don’t do it in a pushy way, of course).
Welcome any partners your child brings home. Be curious about who they are as people and what they’re like with your child. What are the strengths of their relationship? In what ways are they good for each other? Is your child treating their partner well? What are they learning?
So although you might have some uncomfortable feelings when your LGBTQ kid starts dating, that’s not something to focus on. Just keep loving your kid and being a resource in whatever way they need. Because our kids…well, they just keep growing up—and although our role will change, they still need loving parents in their lives.
Marcia Whitney says
This helpful guidance makes perfect sense! Thanks for sharing, Jill.