“Shortly after my son came out, his father and I decided to get divorced. How can I help him understand his coming out had nothing to do with our divorce?”
Question submitted Anonymously
Answered by Anna Krieger, MSW
Coming out and divorce are both big life events that can lead to all kinds of emotions and general vulnerability. These events impact the whole family, which means, in your case, they will also impact your son. The fact that you’re asking this question indicates a sincere desire to help your son feel loved. This love lies at the heart of this process—you need to let your son know that regardless of his sexuality, you will continue to love him, and that his sexuality and who he chooses to love has no bearing on your relationship with his father.
My guess is that you may have already addressed this situation more than you even realize, and your open love and compassion for your son will give him the message that you care about him, regardless of anything else. However, you’re right to want to help him understand. And the more transparent you are, the better.
Let your son into your thoughts. Whether or not he’s connected these two events, you can name your feelings about this. You can be direct and open with him. And in doing so, you can eliminate any would-be feelings of fear, or confusion, worry, from his head. So, whether your son is 10, 15, or 20, transparency is key. You can even tell him what you told us: “I want you to know that your coming out had nothing to do with our divorce.”
Let your son ask questions. Let him be mad. Let him feel whatever he feels, and trust that his process is a crucial part of the healing of the family. And continue to reinforce your love for him and how much he means to you. This is generally a great opportunity to shower your newly-out son with love and support.
Additionally, if you can have this conversation with your son’s dad present, that’s even better. If that isn’t possible, then you and your son’s dad can still reinforce the message, not only making clear that the divorce and your son’s sexuality are two separate things, but also showing your son that he has permission to be who he is in your household and to love who he wants.
Anna Krieger, MSW has been committed to social issues since her time as a student at Haverford College, where, as an out student, she led several student groups focused around providing support for the LGBTQ community. Post-graduation, Anna worked in several low-performing middle and high schools in Philadelphia as an Americorps member, and later as a social worker, after graduating from University of Pennsylvania with her MSW. Anna moved to New York last year, where she has focused her career on recruitment, most recently for a non-profit that provides programming for high-need middle schools around the country. In her spare time, Anna likes to sit in the park, eat soft serve ice cream with sprinkles, and attempts to remember to update her blog: www.nougatsofinspiration.blogspot.com.
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