Coming Out: The Parents
Most have parents that love them dearly. Parents that have cared, and doted on their children from the time they were born. They are some of--if not--the most important people in our lives. They shape us into who we are. Unfortunately even the most loving, nurturing parent is bound to get into a spat or two with their offspring. Most are trivial, easily disregarded, and never discussed again. But in some cases these clashes can't be readily overlooked. More specifically when the parents' core beliefs clash with those of their children. So for those of you that have struggled telling your parents what you believe or how you feel I sincerely hope this helps.
What it Means to "Come Out"
When most hear the words "come out" they think of a person self-disclosing their sexual orientation or gender identity. I tend to use the term more broadly; as a sort of catchall for any situation in which someone's ideas, beliefs, or feelings would come under scrutiny if revealed, and the person in question chooses to unbosom them regardless.
What to Expect from Your Parents
1. Don't expect them to immediately understand: Do not expect your parents to easily come to terms with what your telling them. If they find what you are saying shocking, don't be surprised if their initial response seems overly emotional, it's only because they care for you.
So don't be discouraged if you are met with a bit of anger.
2. Don't expect the end of the world either: When I first considered telling my parents that I was an atheist I was terrified. They where generally good natured, however they were regular church goers and held their beliefs in high esteem. I had no clue how they would react but that didn't stop me from conjuring unrealistically horrid scenarios in my head. Though when I finally did build the courage to sit down and explain myself to them it was not nearly as painful as I had led myself to believe. Try not to overanalyze the situation, you'll just end up worrying more than necessary.
3. Expect them to act a little different: Your parents will most likely act differently around you, for a while at least. They may tiptoe around subjects that have to do with faith, sexuality or whatever it was that you recently disclosed.
4.Expect repercussions: Most parents are pretty passive when it comes to issues such as this. But as with everything there are anomalies, and if your parents are the sort then expect telling them to put some strain on the relationship.
5. Expect them to get over it: Most parents care about their children immensely and telling them what beliefs you hold or things you like won't change that. Rarely will someone alter their entire opinion of others based on a single piece of new information. Don't let fear of their reaction cripple you.
How's Your Relationship with Your Parents?
What you can do to Make the Process Easier
The only thing you can really do to ease the process is to try your best to be sympathetic. Remember that everyone is unique and so to are their beliefs. People are very sensitive when it comes to matters that challenge their beliefs; so if you can help it don't spring everything on them at once, and don't get angry if they aren't taking it well. Anger only begets more anger, and a shouting match doesn't help anyone.
How to Tell Them
- Pick a date in advance and plan out exactly how you are going to tell them. If it helps you can even make a list on topics you wish to cover. This allows time for your parents to prepare themselves as well, hopefully lessening the chances of the conversation becoming heated.
- Stay in control of the conversation. If you are telling both of your parents at once, it's easy to feel overwhelmed and ganged up on. So make sure you have some degree of control over the conversation, not to say you should not let your parents voice their opinions. Just don't allow them to derail the conversation.
- As previously, stated a shouting match doesn't help. If either you or your parents start to dislike the direction of the conversation and begin to get aggravated, take a step back, leave the room if necessary. Do anything you can to diffuse the anger before continuing. The key to a meaningful discussion is keeping things civil.
- Depending on the parent the conversation can be quite pleasant. Use it as an opportunity to learn more about them, a chance to find out why they are who they are and what makes them believe what they believe.
Having a conversation with your parents can be scary, even more so when you are telling them something they may be unprepared to hear. Try not to dig yourself into a rut of worry. If you remember nothing else remember to try your best to be sympathetic. Sympathy breeds understanding, and the harder you try to come to a mutual understanding the more likely you will.