Lucy was chopping vegetables in the kitchen when her nine-year-old daughter, Holly, said, ‘Mum, I think I might be bisexual.’
Lucy remembers putting down the knife, quietly taking a deep breath and choosing to ignore all the little voices that were screaming in her head. All good so far.
She processed the words that Holly had actually said: ‘I think I might be bisexual.’ ‘Holly is trying to work something out,’ Lucy thought, ‘and even better, she has come to me with it.’
This is why as parents it is always a good idea to take a breath and count to 10. We choose to love our child by keeping our response calm instead of emotionally (over)reacting. The goal is that next time Holly wants to talk, she knows that mum is a safe place to go.
It was time for Lucy to speak, trying to sound calm: ‘Why do you think that?’
‘Well in school they were talking about different kinds of relationships,’ answered Holly. ‘If boys like boys, it’s homosexual, and if you like both, it’s bisexual. I have friends who are boys and friends who are girls, so I think I’m bisexual.’
Lucy made this into a good conversation: ‘I can see why you would think that. There are different kinds of relationships. You are talking about being a friend and you want to have all kinds of friends. That is great. When we use words like ‘bisexual’ or ‘lesbian’ we are talking about feelings of sexual attraction that will happen when you are older. You are a child, you still have a child’s body; your body will change, and your feelings will change. Let’s keep talking, but for now, just know that having friends who are both boys and girls is not being bisexual; it’s just being a good friend. Does that sound right to you?’
Western culture places great emphasis on sexual attraction being a key part of how we identify: ‘I am straight/gay/bisexual (delete as appropriate)’. There is a confusion between friendship and sexual attraction.
We have timeless answers in the Bible that will give our children a basis for their thinking and decisions.
Teenagers especially are also desperate to fit in, worry about upsetting their friends and fear being cancelled; they can be left trying to pick their way across a minefield. Being a Christian and living out Christ’s teaching has always been lonely, but perhaps it’s especially lonely as a Western teenager in the 2020s.
Our homes can be places where our children can work this out safely, admit to anything, ask every question without criticism or fear, and hear truth graciously explained. We have timeless answers in the Bible that will give our children a basis for their thinking and decisions.
We can teach them the goodness of God, the truthfulness of his word, and the goodness of both marriage and singleness. We can encourage them not to label themselves too early. There is no need to have an elaborate ‘coming out’ when they can take the time to learn about themselves with those they trust. You can help them to see that feelings can change, but that they might not.
And all need to remember that what our kids most need is Jesus. Worrying about whether they’ll be same-sex-attracted, or whether they’ll get married, or whether they’ll have kids might be a sign we’re more concerned with their worldly happiness and our worldly dreams (because, deep down, we all want grandchildren one day) than with the eternal health of their souls. Worrying about whether the culture will corrupt them might be a sign we’re under-estimating the power of God’s Spirit to save and sustain them. But if we’re convinced of the goodness of Jesus and the power of his Spirit, then we’ll probably do a decent job if one day we’re chopping vegetables in the kitchen and one of our kids says, ‘Mum… Dad… I think I might be…’
This post is adapted from Ed Drew’s new book, Raising Confident Kids in a Confusing World: A Parent’s Guide to Grounding Identity in Christ (The Good Book Company, 2023).