How should I respond if my son/daughter tells me he/she is homosexual?

The intense emotions that accompany an announcement like this can often cloud your responses as parents. Harsh words and actions rarely pave the way for the kind of dialogue that is needed. Instead, they create hurt and distance in the relationship that can be almost impossible to overcome.1

Take a deep breath and have a self-imposed timeout. Once you’ve collected your thoughts, locate relevant resources and books to understand the development of homosexuality. Take time to learn, assimilate and process all the information – but don’t use that as an excuse to avoid conversation. When you are ready, initiate the conversation and listen to their story with an open heart and a spirit of love. You may learn things about their lives and experiences that you did not know.

Give yourself permission to grieve. Self-condemnation and feelings of guilt may plague a parent when things don’t go as they’d intended for their children. All parents make mistakes and all parents are imperfect. Accept that the parent-child relationship may be one of many contributing factors in the scheme of complex influences.

Find some support. You aren’t the only person in the world who has a homosexual loved one. These feelings of hurt, shame and perhaps embarrassment can be hard to handle, but the weight of suffering alone is far more detrimental. You must admit your need, make yourself vulnerable and ask for help.

Examine your expectations. As parents, your greatest desire is probably for your child to leave the homosexual lifestyle and be set free from same-sex sexual attraction. Be wary of allowing your hope to become an expectation. Such expectations feel more like commands to your child and will strain your relationship. Rather, pray for God’s help as you journey together with your son/ daughter.

Exercise loving discipline. Discuss and agree on what is acceptable behaviour. If the house rules are violated (e.g., your child displays inappropriate affection towards his/ her same-sex partner in the home despite the agreement that you will accept the same-sex partner but not any same-sex erotic behaviour), make sure the consequences have been spelt out beforehand and are followed through in a rational, calm manner.

Stand your ground. Some parents who initially disagree with homosexuality swing to the opposite view upon discovering that their child has same-sex sexual attraction or is engaging in homosexual conduct. While you should soften your approach towards the issue, avoidthe temptation to change your stand. Genuine tough love requires us to admit and accept responsibility where we may have contributed to the problem, without compromising on what we know to be true and Biblical.

Keeping the boundaries constant will ultimately earn us the respect of our children; loving discipline reassures them of our love even when they wilfully choose to pursue the homosexual lifestyle. On the contrary, changing our stand to accommodate their decision closes the door for them to choose to live according to God’s original design.

1. Mike Haley, 101 Frequently Asked Questions About Homosexuality(Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2004)