How to sup­port a teenager who wants to come out

As Zoe Ball’s son re­veals he’s bi­sex­ual, ex­perts tell LIZ CON­NOR how par­ents can mak­ing the com­ing out process eas­ier for their kids

Gloucestershire Echo - - FAMILY MATTERS -

TELLING your par­ents that you’re gay, les­bian, bi and/ or trans, is likely to be one of the most nerve-wrack­ing con­ver­sa­tions a teenager can ever have. While they may be re­lieved that they have got the se­cret off their chest, a teenager who’s de­cided to come out to their fam­ily may still har­bour the fear of up­set­ting a loved one, or feel like their iden­tity isn’t ac­cepted.

It’s a con­ver­sa­tion that hap­pens all the time, across the globe – and in the world of celebri­ties too. In fact, Zoe Ball’s son, Woody, re­cently re­vealed that his ra­dio pre­sen­ter mum felt con­fused when he first came out as bi­sex­ual to her.

The 18-year-old spoke about his sex­u­al­ity dur­ing an in­ter­view with Boys By Girls mag­a­zine, ad­mit­ting that he’s liked both boys and girls for three years. “I told my mum and her first re­ac­tion was: ‘You can’t be, you like girls’,” he told the pub­li­ca­tion.

As a par­ent, like Zoe, it’s un­der­stand­able to have ques­tions or con­cerns if your child has made the de­ci­sion to come out to you, but how you ini­tially re­act can make all the dif­fer­ence to a young per­son who is tak­ing the right steps to­wards feel­ing com­fort­able with their sex­u­al­ity.

Here, ex­perts re­veal their ad­vice and guid­ance for par­ents of LGBTQ teens...

RE­SERVE JUDGE­MENT

DUR­ING the ini­tial com­ing out con­ver­sa­tion, it can be tempt­ing to bom­bard your teen with ques­tions, but Re­late coun­sel­lor Si­mone Bose

(re­late.org.uk) ad­vises you re­frain from im­me­di­ately jump­ing in with prac­ti­cal­i­ties.

Sim­ply let your child lead the con­ver­sa­tion and fo­cus on mak­ing them feel ac­cepted.

“Try to stay calm and be aware that your child is prob­a­bly do­ing some­thing they’re scared of – it’s taken some courage for them to tell you,” she says.

BE SUP­PORT­IVE

“IF you’re the par­ent of a child who has re­cently come out, it’s im­por­tant to cre­ate a wel­com­ing en­vi­ron­ment, where they feel able to talk about their sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion and/or gen­der iden­tity,” says Kara Bird, in­for­ma­tion man­ager at Stonewall (stonewall.org.uk).

“Young peo­ple will prob­a­bly have thought about com­ing out for a long time be­fore­hand, so un­der­stand­ing that this is a big mo­ment and tak­ing time to lis­ten, rather than ask­ing lots of ques­tions, will help this process.”

Go slowly and when you think the time is right, ask any ques­tions you may have in a gen­tle, non­judge­men­tal man­ner. Don’t ex­pect them to have all the an­swers, though – their feel­ings might be just as con­fus­ing to them as they are to you.

DON’T DIS­CUSS IT WITH THE WHOLE FAM­ILY

AL­THOUGH your teenager felt able to con­fide in you, it doesn’t mean they’re ready to let the rest of the world know about their sex­u­al­ity. “It’s im­por­tant to ask them who else they want to tell, as they may not want ev­ery­one in the fam­ily to know,” says Kara.

OF­FER SUP­PORT

LET your teenager know that your door is open should they want to chat again, and if they’d like to speak to some­one im­par­tial, it might be help­ful to of­fer to ar­range coun­selling – but don’t en­force it.

“It might be that they’d like to talk through it with some­body who is knowl­edge­able in the area,” says Si­mone.

FIND SUP­PORT ON­LINE

“PAR­ENTS al­ways want to know how best to sup­port their chil­dren and make sure they’re happy,” says Kara. “Luck­ily, there is a wealth of sup­port avail­able for young peo­ple grow­ing up LGBT.”

She be­lieves it’s a good idea to point your child in the di­rec­tion of es­tab­lished groups that pro­vide ser­vices for young peo­ple. The Stonewall web­site has a What’s In My Area re­source that can help par­ents find lo­cal LGBT youth groups.

“Tak­ing ac­tive steps, such as help­ing your child at­tend their first Pride, can also be a great way to show your sup­port,” adds Kara.

“Ev­ery year, Stonewall holds Youth Pride events across the UK too – these events are a great op­por­tu­nity for young peo­ple to join some of the UK’S big­gest cel­e­bra­tions of LGBT com­mu­ni­ties.” Any par­ent who is look­ing for more ideas or ad­vice can con­tact Stonewall’s in­for­ma­tion ser­vice on 0800 502 020 or on­line at [email protected]

Zoe Ball, right and above, pic­tured giv­ing Woody, the son she has with DJ Nor­man Cook, a hug af­ter get­ting his exam re­sults. Left, any par­ent can feel con­fused if their child comes out as LGBTQ

Help­ing your child at­tend their first Pride event is a great way to show your sup­port

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