In terms of gender and sexuality, we live in a new, more accepting world, and in almost every regard, that's a great thing. My kids met my gay best friend and his husband as infants and have never once questioned whether their love for one another or their right to spend their lives together as two men was any different than their dad's and mine as a man and woman. Why would it be? We have always taught them that "love is love," and whoever you're programmed to love is something you're born with. It sounds simple, but we all know the issue can be pretty complicated — especially if you think your own child might be gay.
Follow their lead on issues of sexuality instead of directing them in any particular way. And most importantly, keep reinforcing that you will love and support them no matter what.
As a parent, it's completely normal to worry about the hardships and stresses that your own child might face if they are gay. Wanting to protect and shield our kids from discrimination and the uglier sides of the human experience is just part of parenting. Combine that worry — really about making our children's futures as smooth and happy as possible — with today's openness in terms of talking about sexuality, and it makes sense that you might be tempted to try to figure out whether your kid is gay . . . even before they know themselves.
There might be small hints that you've picked up on that leave you wondering if the behavior is a glimpse of more to come or just a kid being a kid (the answer: it could be either or both). But jumping to conclusions, even if you have the best intention in doing so, can have the effect of being confusing, especially if your child is too young to understand sexuality in general. And no matter how young they are, their sexuality is first and foremost their business. It's also their business to talk to you about it whenever they're ready, not the other way around.
Studies have shown that kids as young as 8 begin to have physical feelings for other people, and most kids start to figure out who they're attracted to between the ages of 9 and 12. Before that age, it's entirely normal for children to play around with gender roles or display "nontraditional" sexual behaviors. Reading too much into those behaviors will most likely upset your child and create unnecessary worry. As your child gets older, those behaviors might mean more, but forcing them to figure out how they identify before they're old enough to process their feelings can do more harm than good. Let them have fun and be who they are!
Instead of trying to figure out your child's sexual orientation before they do, it's better to simply create a generally supportive and open environment in your home. Casually vocalize your support for the LGBTQ+ community. Let your child know that if they have questions about sex or love, you'll do your best to answer them or direct them to an appropriate resource. Follow their lead on issues of sexuality instead of directing them in any particular way. And most importantly, keep reinforcing that you will love and support them no matter what. Providing unconditional love is the best way to give your children the confidence to live their truest and best lives.
Editor's Note: This piece was written by a POPSUGAR contributor and does not necessarily reflect the views of POPSUGAR Inc. Interested in joining our POPSUGAR Voices network of contributors from around the globe? Click here.