There’s so much confusion flying around about gender identity and sexuality. Our children, who are already confused amidst the pressures of growing up and puberty, are constantly bombarded with the idea that gender and sexuality are fluid concepts. They are wrestling with many questions, concepts and conversations that many adults have yet to clarify or understand. Jim Bielby, Professor of Systematic and Philosophical Theology at Bethel University, helps parents create a road map for responding if their child is experiencing confusion with their sexual identity.
“The first thing is you have to manage is your own anxiety. So often my response or the response of parents becomes about me. It becomes about managing my fears and managing my expectations, but the most important thing we can do is to be there for our kid at that moment.”
“I can say there is nothing my kids could tell me that would cause me to stop loving them and I need them need to know that. I need to tell them that. Whatever they’re dealing with, I’m going to be walking through it with them shoulder to shoulder. That is the most fundamental thing: that they have a support structure at home as they’re dealing with these issues. Because oftentimes the outside world at school and certainly on social media is just a disaster. These kids are not supported other places, so they need to be at home.”
If your child believes they are gay or transgender, or something else entirely, react first with love. To turn them away at that moment would be to turn them towards a society that fills their heads with more questions. We need to help them walk through their confusion; but where does one go from here?
“If my child comes to me and says that they are dealing with these issues, I first tell them I love them. The second thing I do is I talk to my network of people and I ask who a good person is for my child to be talking to right now. Who should I connect them with? As parents we can love our kids and we’re the front line for that, but there’s so much going on that we can’t deal with it all ourselves. We have to find our people, we have to find our resources and draw them together.”
“Start with a person first and foremost who is a therapist. I would also try to find people in my child’s life who had wrestled with these sorts of things before so that they can see an example that this isn’t a disaster or the end of the world, and that we always come out the other side.”
No matter the issue your child is dealing with, Jim warns against the negative connotations and stigma that surround seeking therapy and mental health support.
“Unfortunately, we have the stigma surrounding mental health; we have a corollary stigma surrounding therapy and thus therapy is what crazy people do. But they need to know this isn’t crazy. Just having a person who is an expert in drawing out people’s questions and emotions, then helping them connect those to their feelings will help us better understand where this is all stemming from in the first place.”
We need to be present in our children’s lives with a loving voice. We need to show them what God has shown us: That He made man and woman to live together and bring glory to Him. We must love our children and walk with them in this new reality, because the moment we turn them away is a moment they could be lost to an ocean of confusion.
Jim Beilby is Professor of Systematic and Philosophical Theology at Bethel University, where he has taught since 1999. He is the author or editor of thirteen books, including Thinking About Christian Apologetics: What It Is and Why We Do It, and The Historical Jesus: Five Views.What do I do if my child says they're gay?