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Teen Thinks He's Gay
Q: I am a 35-year-old mother of three. My oldest son, who's 16, recently told me he thinks he's gay. What advice should I give him and how can I deal with my own feelings? I am just not at all prepared for this. I am particularly horrified because of the recent beating death of an 18-year-old gay male in our area. Any advice would be appreciated.
A: Despite your understandable confusion and fear over this revelation, you must be careful to restrain yourself from blaming and shaming your son for believing that he might be gay. It took tremendous courage for him to reveal this to you. He is looking to you for your help and support and you need to make that your main focus.
He is very vulnerable right now and I'm sure that he is scared, given the considerable prejudice against homosexuals in our culture. He may even fear being rejected and condemned by his family and friends.
Help him find a therapist who has a background in helping adolescents sort out and deal with their sexual orientation. It's important that you not present this as sending him to a therapist so he can "get cured." You also need professional help so you can assist your son.
Your son may receive some beneficial, free counseling at the Trevor Hotline (800-850-8078), which serves lesbian, gay, bisexual, and questioning youth under the age of 25. Their web site is thetrevorproject.org. You might wish to call PFLAG (Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) at 212-467-8180 or visit their web site, firstname.lastname@example.org to find one of a chapter near you.
Your son has now experienced your reactions to his telling you that he thinks he is gay and he is probably both relieved and more frightened than ever. I'm sure you will use your love for your son to give him what he needs at this critical time in his life.
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Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.