“C”ommunicating with Our Teenagers

We cannot NOT communicate. – Ray Birdwhistell 

Everything we do communicates something. It has been estimated that between 67-94% of our communication is nonverbal. What is non-verbal communication, you ask? It is everything except the words. It could be a grunt, a smile, a sigh, our smell, our jewelry, our clothes, whistling, the way we comb our hair, tattoos, the way we cook our food, piercings or the lack thereof, our posture, the nuances and history of a relationship, a stare at our son, a gaze at a pretty girl, the way we walk, our mode of transportation, hand gestures, or making googly eyes and funny sounds at a baby. We may say something, but our true intentions frequently will leak through our nonverbal behavior.  

The tone, the attitude behind the words when you ask your son to do something, communicates a whole lot more than the words that you verbally say. It is the attitude that he will respond to, not merely the words. Everything communicates. That is why the “C” in the title of this article is so large. Everything communicates something. We cannot NOT communicate. 

Even a dead person communicates. They communicate deadness.  

It is what is not being said that we pay attention to; this is why sarcasm is so dangerous. With sarcasm, there is a contradiction between the verbal and the nonverbal. Sarcasm is typically cutting. In fact, the word means, “to tear flesh.” For children, sarcasm can be very confusing.  

If you were to attend a communication seminar on learning “Effective Communication Skills,” you might come away with skills such as: having good eye contact, sitting on the edge of your chair, nodding and other non-verbal behavior to indicate you are listening. You might also learn about the importance of reflective listening. All these skills are important, however, do you suppose it would be possible to perform all these behaviors and not really listen in a caring way? And, if a person didn’t really care, do you think other people will be able to tell?  

Of course they can. 

“There is something deeper than behavior that others can sense – something that, when wrong, undercuts the effectiveness of even the most outwardly ‘correct’ behavior.” i  This thing that is deeper than behavior is something philosophers have been talking about for centuries. Carl Rogers called it “Way of Being.”ii  

Martin Buber explains that there are two fundamental ways of being, two ways of seeing another person. The first way is as a ”Thou,” a person with hopes and dreams and struggles similar to your own.  The other way of seeing a person is as an “It.” This is where one objectifies a person. “If I see them at all, I see them as less than I am – less relevant, less important, and less real.”iii This is then also about you and your perspective. There is always a good chance that a person does not see things the way they really are; that person may be missing something. We must be willing to honestly look at ourselves and see what part of the problem is our own. “Might I be provoking the other person without even knowing it?” 

When we talk to our teenagers, we sometimes ask them questions.  We must understand that they do not merely answer our questions; they are answering a relationship. Our conversations don’t happen in a vacuum. They happen in the context of a historical relationship.  They are answering a person, and with that person, comes an accumulation and history of their interactions. They answer according to the quality of their recent and remote relationship. 

For example, you might ask your daughter, “Would you take the dog for a walk?” She could respond in a variety of ways. She could ignore you. She could say, “of course.” She could tell you to eat rocks, or yell out while leaving, “maybe later.” On the other hand, if your daughter’s best friend (having a different relationship) said, “Let’s take the dog for a walk?” Your daughter may happily agree to take the dog for a walk. The relationship determines the interaction. 

In his book ”7 Habits of Highly Effective People,”iv Stephen Covey speaks of an emotional bank account we each have with our children. We must have enough positive interactions, thus building the relationship in our “emotional bank account,” before we can safely make a withdrawal (correction/discipline) without damaging the relationship. After all, we do not want to bankrupt the relationship.  When the emotional bank account is healthy, your child can take correction, knowing that it is coming from a place of love. 

The quality of the relationship determines our ability to be effective parents  

and our teenager’s willingness to allow us to influence them. 

 The moment a parent has a nasty verbal exchange with their teenager is not the time to try to immediately solve the problem. There are too many hot emotions for anyone to think clearly. If the relationship is generally good, waiting for a few hours, or perhaps a day to address the problem is wise. Time allows the parents and teenager space to see the situation clearly without the corrupting influence of these distorted and self-justifying thoughts and emotions.  

If the relationship has been rocky, time is needed for the relationship to heal. Part of healing process is deliberately working on developing trust again; another topic for another day. 

Originally published on http://utvalleywellness.com/

 

 

LOVELOUD 2018, A Reflection

It’s surprising the things you learn by meeting and talking with new people. They may share your particular values, have similar passions – or they may be completely different. On July 28th, my wife, Lauren, and I were given the opportunity to attend the 2018 LOVELOUD Festival at the Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City, Utah. The mission of this festival was to “ignite the vital conversation about what it means to unconditionally love, understand, accept and support our LGBTQ+ friends and family.” 

Now, I’m a country boy, who grew up on a small farm in the heartland of middle Tennessee. I wasn’t raised in a community that would easily embrace that mission statement. If someone would have told me that I would have been attending the LOVELOUD Festival 13 years ago, I would have scoffed and dismissed them; but a lot has changed since 2005. 

Traveling beyond my community and culture, meeting and talking with new people around the globe, and seeing how different individuals and various cultures live their lives opened my mind and heart to understanding and accepting that so many people live very differently from me. LOVELOUD was another step in my own journey to understanding more about the various individuals who share this world with me. 

We arrived at Rice-Eccles Stadium fairly early on Saturday and received our press passes for the event. After which, we found our way to the press room and met our first new friend, Adam Dupuis, the Managing Editor for Instinct magazine. We talked with Adam throughout the day, and he was so sincerely kind and friendly, checking on and asking how my wife, who’s 21 weeks pregnant, was feeling and if she was doing alright. At one point, when the attendees were asked to tell the person next to them that they cared for them, Adam leaned over and said how he genuinely cared for my wife and me. It was something wonderful and caused me to really consider, “could a person I just met really care about me?” 

During the press conference, we heard from a number of event leaders and organizers, including Imagine Dragons’ lead singer, Dan Reynolds. While listening to the passionate comments and answers from the panelists, I was struck by their non-polarizing approach while discussing the subjects of the event. They all agreed that the event was one of love, and that it was not about singling out opposing views and anyone with opposing views, but was about engaging in meaningful dialogue about suicide prevention, our youth, and the LGBTQ+ community. 

I also had the pleasure of meeting Jeffrey Marsh and Blair Imani. Both of these people live different lifestyles, and are quite different from me in many ways, and I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to engage and speak with both of them. Blair had a wonderful conversation with Lauren and I on the varying perspectives of individuals around the world regarding hardship and struggles, and how by being considerate of those perspectives, we can improve how we interact and engage with others. She was well-spoken and wonderfully polite. Jeffrey was absolutely the most pleasant person I think I’ve ever met. So much kindness, gentleness, and optimism embodied by a single person was astonishing. 

This entire event was laced with celebrities, music, and festivities; but the core of this festival was the message and the passion in which it was delivered. LOVELOUD established a mission to ignite the conversation, and I truly believe that they succeeded in increasing the dialogue and bringing more people into that conversation. Regardless of our backgrounds, cultures, or lifestyles, we are all people, and as long as we breathe, we have an opportunity to meet and talk with new people, learn more about the communities and cultures of others, and build a better understanding of those around us. 

 And, it really is surprising what you will learn when you take that step. 

Originally published on http://utvalleywellness.com/

 

 

Medication Management and Mental Health

In my career in healthcare, I have seen far too many patients who have been prescribed medication and continue to take that medication faithfully; Yet after a time, they are not really sure why they are taking that specific medication or if it is even helping with the diagnosed issue.  

 What is missing for these patients? Medication management 

Medication management is the process of following up with the healthcare provider on a regular basis to assess the effectiveness of the prescribed medication therapy, discuss any side effects that may go along with the medication, and make adjustments in order to achieve proper dosing. In some cases, the follow-up may be to change the prescribed medication therapy, if it is not providing the desired outcomes. Medication management should be an ongoing process. It should include open dialogue between the patient and provider about the effects of the medication combined with any other therapies or treatments that may be in place. This is to ensure useful data is being collected, so decisions can be made based on the whole picture; not just the medication piece. 

When it comes to psychiatric and mental health services, the importance of quality medication management cannot be overemphasized. Not all people who seek psychiatric help will require medication. In some cases, amino acid therapy may be appropriate or continued therapy and counseling with regular psychiatric follow-up is warranted. If medication is prescribed, the patient should plan to see the psychiatric provider within 2 weeks (in most cases) for the first medication management visit.  Continued follow-up visits should be scheduled monthly, or as needed depending on the individual case. 

During these visits, the patient should plan on communicating openly with the psychiatric provider about their use of the medication, any side effects that they may be noticing, and any changes they are feeling in relation to their mental health diagnosis. At times, genetic testing can be used to pinpoint what medications are more likely to work for each individual patient. This testing can be used not only for patients who are just beginning psychiatric treatment but also for patients who have been prescribed medication therapies that aren’t working. The patient should also plan to consult with the psychiatric provider before taking any other medications. They should inform the provider of other mental health therapies being used or medical complications that may arise during treatment. The patient should expect the provider to ask questions that will direct and lead the conversation, so time is well spent and modifications can be made with confidence. 

Ultimately, the key to effective psychiatric medication management is open and continual communication between the patient and provider. At the Center for Couples and Families, our psychiatric providers strive to provide thorough psychiatric assessment, follow-up, and medication management. 

Originally published on http://utvalleywellness.com/

 

Hidden Signs of Depression

Studies show about 1 out of every 6 adults will have depression at some time in their life. This means that you probably know someone who is depressed or may become depressed at some point. We often think of a depressed person as someone who is sad or melancholy. However, there are other signs of depression that can be a little more difficult to detect.  

Trouble Sleeping 

If you notice a change in a loved one’s sleeping habits pay close attention as this could be a sign of depression. Oftentimes depression leads to trouble sleeping and lack of sleep can also lead to depression.

Quick to Anger
When a person is depressed even everyday challenges can seem more difficult or even impossible to manage which often leads to increased anger and irritability. This can be especially true for adolescents and children.  

Losing Interest 
When someone is suffering from depression you may notice a lack of interest in past times he or she typically enjoys. “People suffering from clinical depression lose interest in favorite hobbies, friends, work — even food. It’s as if the brain’s pleasure circuits shut down or short out.” 

Appetite Changes
Gary Kennedy, MD, director of geriatric psychiatry at Montefiore Medical Center in Bronx, New York cautions that a loss of appetite can be a sign of depression or even a sign of relapse back into depression. Dr. Kennedy also points out that others have trouble with overeating when they are depressed. 

Low Self-Esteem 

Depression often leaves people feeling down about themselves. Depression can lead to feelings of self-doubt and a negative attitude.  

What to do
If you suspect you or someone you love may be suffering from depression talk about it, encourage him or her to get professional help and once he or she does be supportive. Remember that at times symptoms of depression need to be treated just like any other medical condition.

Originally published on http://utvalleywellness.com/

 

Love Loud

When I was in high school, my best friend was gay, and I never knew. When he came out to me years later, I asked him why hadn’t he told me back then, and he answered, “You remember what it was like, right?” Yeah, I remembered. It was the 90’s and it was Utah County. Fear and misunderstanding were the norm, and for many LGBTQ+ youth, day-to-day life could be a terrifying experience. I’d like to think that there have been positive changes since then, but sadly, Utah’s youth suicide rate isn’t one of them.  

Instead of falling, it is climbing steadily, and has been each year, nearly four times faster than the national average. LGBTQ+ youth in unaccepting homes and communities are 8 times more likely to commit suicide and 3 times more likely to engage in risky drug use.  

 But Dan Reynolds, the lead singer of Imagine Dragons, and the LoveLoud Foundation are trying to change that. Last year, Dan started the LoveLoud festival to increase suicide awareness for Utah’s LGBTQ+ youth. We recently sat down to talk with Dan and Tegan Quin from the band Tegan and Sara—artists who are trying to make a meaningful impact in the lives of our youth here in Utah.  

UVHW: What inspired you to start this journey, and LoveLoud, on behalf of the LGBTQ+ community? 

 Dan Reynolds: I watched how difficult it was for friends of mine to feel safe in that space. And then I went on (an LDS) mission, and became good friends with Tyler Glenn of Neon Trees. I watched him go through his process of being Mormon and gay and coming out and how difficult that was for him to feel at odds with God. Then I married a woman who is a badass activist who helped me to find my own inner truth and speak it. It’s been a lot of different things and a lot of different people who have inspired me throughout the years as well as people like Tegan who have been doing things in this realm for a long time. I’m just trying to do my little part with the platform that I’ve been given.  

UVHW: Your film Believer aired on HBO in June. What would you want the Utah Valley audience to know about your film and how to embrace the message that you’re sharing? 

Dan Reynolds:  That it’s a safe film to watch with their children. It’s motivating, it’s emotional, it’s powerful and I truly believe it will create real change in the communities that need it most. We tried really hard to create a documentary that was honest and to convey what’s happening on ground zero with our LGBTQ+ youth within homes of faith. The question is, what can we do to change the statistics, the environment and to create a safe one for LGBTQ+ youth, and that’s what this documentary is looking to do. I hope that everyone would give it a chance to sit down and watch it and see how their heart and mind feels. 

UVHW: How can we create greater safety for our LGBTQ+ youth and as well as adults; what can we do as a community? Tegan, do you want to answer that? 

Tegan Quin: It’s so profoundly moving to watch the documentary and that’s why Sara and I and our foundation got involved with it. We want to bring the community together, not to talk about how we don’t agree, but instead to create an amazing space to come together—to have the LGBTQ+ community speaking their truth, but also have Mormons in the community who want to learn and want to be better allies or want to understand what’s going on. The community is the space to do that, and to use music to bring people together. That’s a really wonderful way to start the conversation. As queer artists, our number one job is to bring people together to a space that feels inclusive and feels warm, and I think that music is really wonderful—a great equalizer. It transcends all of our differences and brings us all together. Encouraging people to watch the documentary or come to LoveLoud is a great way to start that conversation. 

UVHW: I brought my kids to LoveLoud last year, and that really opened up the door to talk about what they heard, and what they saw, and how they felt about it. It was such a cool experience, and was such a great success. What are your hopes for year two of LoveLoud? 

Dan Reynolds:  For me, it’s that dialogue that takes place beforehand and after the concert at home, at the dinner table, at school or at church. I think that change really comes about on people’s own timelines and nobody ever changes in a deep way on matters that are this ingrained in some people’s hearts, by just having someone talk at them. I think the change comes about with time, with patience and with open dialogue and thoughtfulness. What’s the most important thing is the child sitting down with mom and dad and saying, “Hey, this is what I felt at LoveLoud. What’d you guys think?” And then the parents expressing their thoughts and then the child their thoughts and then going to school and talking to their friends about it. And that to me is how you de-stigmatize an issue and that’s how you create a safe place for LGBTQ+ youth where this isn’t even a conversation that needs to be had anymore. But hopefully there’ll be a day where LoveLoud isn’t necessary any longer. Maybe it will just take on a different life of just being a celebration of love. 

Tegan Quin: I think there’s so much negativity in the media and there’s just a lot going on in the world. It can be extremely overwhelming, and maybe a young person is experiencing anxiety or depression. Another wonderful positive about LoveLoud and the documentary is that it’s celebration, it’s positivity–it’s starting the conversation and it’s exploring a different side of the conversation. Just this morning, I was speaking to a grade four teacher who told me that they had taken their students to an event where there had been positive LGBTQ+ representation there and they had been talking about pronouns and a kid who had been really depressed and who had expressed thoughts of suicide at 10 years old, which is just devastating to hear, had come back after the field trip and said, “I now know more about myself.” This kid had been feeling like maybe he was LGBTQ+. And sometimes it’s just giving LGBTQ+ kids something to look forward to, something positive to get them through these things. You know, that’s why I think LoveLoud is important. It’s positive and we need that right now in the community. 

UVHW: Yes, we do. What are your plans or thoughts about doing LoveLoud on a national level?  

 Dan Reynolds:  My focus is really on Utah, because that’s got one of the highest suicide rates in the nation. When someone has a LoveLoud necklace on or a t-shirt, then our LGBTQ+ youth can go up to that person, and find a safe zone there. But I would like it to be an organization that represents safety to all LGBTQ+ youth, not just in the nation, but around the world, and I think it starts here. We hope to continue to do as much as we possibly can to create a real impact. 

Sources:  

https://loveloudfest.com 

https://www.sltrib.com/news/health/2017/11/30/utahs-youth-suicide-rates-growing-at-alarming-pace-new-federal-report-says/ 

 

Originally published on Utah Valley Health and Wellness Magazine 

 

How to Talk to Your Teenager about Hard Things

Many parents bring their child in for therapy and express that they don’t know how to talk to them about things that are happening with their family (ex. divorce, depression of a family member). Also, I’ve heard from many teenagers that their parents haven’t talked to them about “awkward” topics, such as sex, pornography, dating, or even emotions. However, I have found that when parents have open communication with their children, children tend to be more emotionally healthy.  

First, when it comes to talking about sex, pornography, or dating, one of the most common questions I get is, “How do I know what is age-appropriate?” The simple answer to that question is to start with the basics. If the child asks more questions than answer those questions. I have found that if parents are unwilling to answer or feel awkward answering, their children will turn to other sources to get answers. Further, if the children see that the parents feel awkward talking about the subject, then the subject becomes taboo and they feel like they can’t talk with their parents in the future when they have questions.  

Another thing to keep in mind when talking with your teenagers about sex is to use correct terms. The terms they usually hear are slang, but it is important for them to understand exactly what you are talking about and the easiest way to avoid confusion is to avoid slang. Further, if you start to get uncomfortable, take some deep breaths and remind yourself that its important for them to know from you. Some parents, mine included, have used books to help when talking to their child/teenager about maturation. Just make sure that you know what’s in the book. Read the book with them and answer their questions.  

Second, when it comes to feelings, teenagers tend to have a lot of them. I have heard from parents that they are burnt out listening to the emotional rollercoaster, or that they don’t know how to react when they feel like their teenager’s emotions are silly, or they simply do not understand what their child is feeling because they, the parent, are not good with emotions. It’s important to listen to teenagers and help them learn to regulate their own emotions. I’ve found that most parents feel pressure to fix their teenager’s problems or to make their children happy. However, sometimes the best way to help them is to listen and then help them problem solve their own problems. For example, if they come to you emotionally distraught over being left out, it can be helpful to listen to their feelings, let them know that you are listening by repeating back a part of what they said, then ask them what they can do in the future when this happens (or ask what they need to do to feel better in this moment). 

As a parent, many difficult conversations need to be had with your teenagers. It can feel overwhelming at times if you don’t know what to say or how to say it; but if you can push through, you will help your children learn valuable skills they need later in life. You can help develop a relationship with your teenager of trust and openness that can help them safely navigate their way through those challenging teenage years.  

 

Originally published on Utah Valley Health and Wellness Magazine 

Now That My Teen Has Come Out – WHAT DO I DO NOW?

Ive told my son that nothing changes, that I still love him, but I expect him to live the same standards as the rest of the family, and yet he seems more and more depressed. Why isnt this working? 

I dont want my daughters ideas about being lesbian to influence the younger kids in the family, so Ive told her not to talk about it at home. 

I think if my son is going to wear makeup, hes going to get made fun of at school. I cant stop that. 

In the September/October issue of Utah Valley Health and Wellness, I talked about parental self-care. It’s important for parents to have people to talk with who understand and don’t blame them for what they are feeling and experiencing. In the July/August issue, I talked about how to keep lines of communication open when a child “comes out” as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, etc.  In this issue, we’re going to talk about how to keep you and your teen connected. 

Some families consider that their main responsibility to a child that comes out is to continue to teach truths about sexuality and gender, and to make sure their teen does not misunderstand or ignore these teachings. In my experience with hundreds of teens from good homes, this emphasis generally results in a disconnection that makes communication feel tense and difficult. Because teens need a good relationship with parents in order to navigate the experiences of being a healthy teen, I recommend that parents: 

  1. Consider that your child may not be choosing to rebel against your teachings and beliefs as they learn new things about themselves and want to share them with you. 
  1. Recognize that your child knows where you stand with regard to teachings about sexuality and gender. 
  1. Learn to be open to hearing from your child what internalizing these ideas has been like (both recently and in the past). 
  1. Find out what your child’s hopes and dreams for themselves are, and how they may be changing. 
  1. Show respect for your child, especially as your child’s experiences are different from yours. 

These five things will make a dramatic difference in your child’s interest in re-opening a relationship with you. The most important thing is that you – as a parent – remain a steadfast connection with the world of respectful and loving relationship with your child. Children who do well – that is – avoid risky sex, drug abuse, alcohol abuse, and suicidal behaviors – have parents who show respect for their childrens sense of what is true about them. (For details about the retrospective studies of families who demonstrate accepting and rejecting behaviors and the outcomes for teens, see http://familyproject.sfsu.edu/) 

If you want help navigating how to support your teen while making sure they are safe and mentally healthy (especially if identifying as a gender or sexual minority goes against your beliefs), you may want to:  

  1. Meet with other parents who have found peace in this journey (last issue listed several groups that meet in Utah County) 
  1. Meet with a therapist who can help you and your teen navigate issues of safety and mental health. 

 

Many families have found their way through this journey with greater love and appreciation for each other and for their relationships, which strengthens everyone, including parents and the younger children in the family. 

How do I Get My Husband to Come to Counseling?

Counseling, if done right, is husband friendly! Find the right therapist and you’ll understand. The problem is that many husbands worry that the therapist is going to take their wife’s side and gang up on him, or that therapy will be uncomfortable. While the latter may be true, the former isn’t. A good therapist doesn’t take sides or act as a referee. I have had many couples want to hash out an argument in front of me in counseling so that I can tell them who is right. I stop them, and explain that even if one of them ended up right, that they would be so wrong in their rightness – their marriage would suffer because they insisted on being right instead of compassionate and forgiving. A good therapist, rather, is able to foster healthy interactions between spouses so that they both feel safe and are able to be vulnerable and genuine with each other. When husbands understand that what they feel and think is important, then they are more willing to make this uncomfortable leap with their spouse. Women are more likely than men to initiate therapy, but without buy-in from the man, it is difficult to be successful in therapy. My suggestion to women who want to initiate counseling, but have a reluctant spouse is to recognize that this is scary for your spouse. They may feel as if they will be attacked, or worse yet, that they will lose you. Help them understand that your desire for counseling is because you love him and because you want this to work – but aren’t sure how to make fix it. Ask him to give therapy at least 3 sessions – after that, if he still feels reluctant there might be another counselor or approach that you could try. Most men feel better about therapy after at least 3 sessions if you have the right therapist for you.

 

Originally published on www.tristonmorgan.com

 

The Secret of Pornography

Secrets fuel addiction. As I’ve mentioned before in previous posts, addictions, such as pornography addictions, are a shame-based experience. This means that when someone uses pornography they feel as if they are a bad person, rather than feeling that they are a good person despite making a mistake. When someone feels shame, they often compartmentalize what they have done – they hid it and separate it from who they think they really are, or, think that that mistake totally defines who they really are.

This is where secrets come into play. Over time, a man (or woman – I’ve worked with both in therapy for pornography issues) who has been using pornography and feeling shame because of it will gather many secrets. He won’t want to tell anyone what he is doing, or won’t want to tell them all that he is doing. He might only present the best parts of himself or just tell enough about his mistakes to others to appease them or to feel like he is being open. But, in fact, he is keeping secrets. These secrets start to bury him and make him feel more shame. They take an effort to maintain and keep hidden. They cause him stress and to feel disconnected from others. All of these things can lead to more addictive acting out.

Being transparent is key. This, in part, is why in the 12-step model of recovery (for alcohol, sexual addiction or substance addiction) addicts are asked to write a fearless moral inventory and to share it. Being open with others can feel uncomfortable and embarrassing. Many would say, “It’s in the past – let it stay there” or, “I don’t want to hurt her, so I’m not going to tell her about it”. These mindsets only make things worse for someone using pornography and their spouse/family. Telling others and being transparent is on the path towards recovery.

Pornography counseling offers a venue to be transparent and honest with yourself and with your loved ones. A good therapist will help you through this process in a way that might be painful, but certainly not shameful.

Originally published on www.tristonmorgan.com

 

Coming Out – Part 2 Parental Self-Care

When he told me he only had crushes on boys and thats why he never dated, I started crying. 

My son told me not to tell his father that he really feels like a girl. Did I let him play with girls too much? 

I asked my daughter why her best friend identifies as lesbian, and she told me she thinks she may be one too. Im sure she is not. 

When teens come out, the world shifts. Some parents respond with denial, wanting to diminish the news. Others feel anger and want to find out who is responsible. Some parents feel sadness, anticipating a loss of shared values, a loss of future. Denial, anger and sadness are all important aspects of grief processing, and for many parents, responding to a child’s coming out is a grief experience. 

Most children talk with their parents only after years of trying to figure out what is really happening inside, and when they finally tell parents, those years are condensed into a moment that – to a parent – may feel like a dropped bomb. 

After listening to hundreds of stories of parents responding to their children’s expressions of attraction and identity, I’ve seen how important it is for parents to take care of their own emotional health afterward.*  

Here are some valuable principles to keep in mind: 

  1. Take a break to figure yourself out. Denial, anger, and grief are expected. However, if your child feels overwhelmed by your denial, anger, and grief, then healthy connecting may be more difficult. Many children “take on” their parents’ reactions and become more isolated. You may want to find another place and time to express and explore your genuine reactions. One mother told her child she loved him and needed some time to figure out her own feelings, and then she spent the afternoon at her sister’s home. Another father immediately called a counselor, reassuring his son that the counseling was intended to help the father provide healthy support for his son.  
  2. Remind yourself, “This is not a crisis.” One mother described feeling completely numb. Because Christmas was only a few days away, she felt both the pressure of the family’s expectation and the heaviness of the news. She found that repeating aloud the words, “This is not a crisis” reminded her that their family would still survive despite the new information.
  3. It’s normal to feel more upset, even though your child may seem happier. While children often feel relief after sharing feelings with parents, your feelings may begin to resemble a roller-coaster. It may seem unfair that your child has just given you the burden to carry. Breathe through these feelings and recognize that this is normal.  
  4. Find safe people to share what you are feeling. Your child may insist that you tell no one. And although it’s important to honor your child’s sense of privacy, it’s OK to let your child know that you need to talk with someone. Perhaps you and your child can agree on a trusted family member, friend, or counselor. 
  5. Limit your contact with others who are uninformed. Sometimes well-meaning friends and family have advice that is not helpful, or that undermines your confidence in yourself and your child. It’s OK to limit your contact with these people for a period of time. Plan what you will say. “We are working hard to support each other right now and I need to focus on that,” may be helpful to repeat.
  6. And finally, when you ask “Why me?” try switching to the question, “Why not me?” and see what strengths you find in yourself. Chances are you are being called to a deeper way of loving your child and yourself. 

SIDEBAR MATERIAL — Find a Parent Support Group in Utah County 

Find a parent support group. Meeting with other parents in similar situations has been a positive emotional turning point for many. Here are a few in Utah Valley: 

  1. PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) meets weekly at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in downtown Provo (provopflag@gmail.com) 
  2. Encircle Parents’ Meeting (Third Sunday of each month at Encircle in Provo) https://encircletogether.org/supportgroups 
  3. Northstar Parents’ Meeting (Quarterly meeting at a parent’s home in Lehi) 

https://www.lds.org/blog/navigating-family-differences-with-love-and-trust?lang=eng  

 Next time:  Coming Out Part 3 – What do we do now?