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How to Support Your Gay Child

Straight-from-the-heart advice for parents and grandparents who want to do the right thing.

En español | My partner Eileen and I have been together for 30 years. We have three kids and have lived in the suburbs of New Jersey since forever. In our town, we are the gay "go-to" people — especially for parents and grandparents of gay kids. Even though some of those moms, dads and grandparents may be having a hard time dealing with it, most of them want to do the right thing; they're just not sure how. These are the concerns we hear frequently:

See Also: AARP's Pride Page

Grandmother hugs granddaughter for how to support your gay or lesbian grandchild

All your child or grandchild needs is support. — Getty Images

"I'm not sure how to react." Being openly gay may be the most courageous choice your son, daughter, grandson or granddaughter will ever make. It is a decision to live with integrity. When you are erasing the picture of the wedding cake with a husband and wife on top from your hard drive, remember that. It takes guts. Admire them as people. Try your best to remember that when you find yourself tempted to drive down Pity Party Lane.

"I don't know how to tell friends and family about my gay kid or grandkid." Present it like a five-alarm blaze and it will be received that way. Your comfort with the topic will set the tone. And don't think for a minute that your friends and neighbors aren't in the same boat. With more people living openly, it seems that nearly everyone knows someone gay. Strike that. Nearly everyone knows and likes/loves someone gay. And take it from me, never assume a friend or relative will be narrow-minded. I'm here to tell you: I've done it and it's not nice and it's unfair.

"Sometimes it's hard for me." I believe that kids want their parents to be honest with them. That was the approach I took when my 16-year-old daughter got a nose ring. "Don't you like it?" she asked me. "No, actually, I don't." I could have gone with "I love it; I think I'll get me one for Christmas." But I chose honesty. Choose it here, too. After all, your kid did! It really is OK to say, "This may be hard for me" or "Grandma's going to need an extra martini tonight."

"My son is bringing a date to Thanksgiving. I may have a bird." In some ways, it is just as weird when your daughter brings home a boyfriend for the first time. You are hardwired to turn into an awkward idiot. Extended family get-togethers add another layer of nosiness: "Is he a friend or a friend friend?" Get input from your kid on how to handle such kitchen buzz. And if your strategy can include some humor, all the better.

Next: Should same-sex sleepovers be allowed?

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