Tips for Supporting Your LGBTQ+ Child
By Jaya Deshmukh, EVP Strategy & Transformation at Colt
At Colt, our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion goal is creating a great, innovative and inclusive place to work. At the heart of this goal is driving a culture where people are themselves and where there is psychological safety for them to contribute their ideas. We can’t foster innovation without this.
While the business case for diversity is clear, for me personally, it’s just the right thing to do. As executive sponsor for our WomenPlus network, I also have strong links with our Pride Matters employee network, being a parent to an LGBTQ+ daughter myself.
Parenting is a difficult journey, and when you are parenting a child who is LGBTQ+, there can be additional bumps in the road, especially when, like me, you come from a culture where there is less acceptance historically. I consider myself an ally, unequivocally, yet I have grown more aware of the LGBTQ+ experience through the eyes of my daughter, and I do believe that there is a lot that organizations can do to support people.
One of the things we’ve done at Colt is to look at our policies and ensure they’re inclusive. We did this specifically with our parental leave policies for example, using the word parents, rather than mothers or fathers, as this recognises that families come in all shapes and sizes.
We’ve also reviewed our compassionate leave policy. Sadly, it’s a fact that many LGBTQ+ people can become alienated from their family because of lack of acceptance, and this means that our compassionate leave policy now refers to a person’s chosen family.
I’m pleased that the workplace has changed over the years, and there is more of a focus on inclusion. Many people in the LGBTQ+ community felt they had to hide their identity in the past and this is emotionally and psychologically draining. People who are having to “mask” who they are understandably will struggle to perform at their best and this just shouldn’t be the case. This is why I think businesses have taken notice and why they need to continue to take notice.
As a parent to an LGBTQ child, I thought it may be helpful to share my top five tips for anyone who has a child that has come out as LGBTQ.
1. First and foremost, I think it’s important to let your child know that they are loved. This may seem obvious, but your child will be feeling a range of things. They need to know that you love them and support them no matter what.
2. Educate yourself on the facts. It’s important to know more about the LGBTQ+ community and to read as much as you can, using trusted sources. You don’t need to become an expert overnight but there are lots of misconceptions so make sure that you are aware. Learn the correct terminology for things and if in doubt, ask.
3. Encourage dialogue - Don’t dismiss their feelings but listen to what they have to say. Really listen and take it in. Be really curious about their life. Remember that their LGBTQ+ identity is only one aspect of them and so try not to make all your interactions about this.
4. Self-care – You may find it stressful but be aware that this is more difficult for them, and your role is to be there for your child. If that means that you sometimes need to take a breather and practice some self-care, so that you’re better able to support them, then do it.
5. Ask for help – Don’t be afraid to ask for help. What this looks like may be different depending on your family situation or age of your child but there are specific organisations that supports parents of LGBTQ+ children, so make an effort to reach out.