My blog (A Father's Pride) is usually about providing practical advice to gay youth, but sometimes we dads need a little advice too. So, my fellow dads with gay sons, let's talk about a few things you can do for your boys this year.
1. Commit to connecting with your son. It's a story I've heard again and again: A boy comes out as gay and his dad suddenly steps out of the picture. This leaves a young man without his dad's guidance, and it can make life harder on your son than it needs to be.
Connecting with any teenager can be a challenge. We listen to different music, enjoy different hobbies, have different friends, and are at different stages in life. When your son's path through life looks different from the one you expected him to be on, it makes that connection even harder. That means you'll have to work harder, dad. You're up to that challenge, and if you need a little help, the National Fatherhood Initiative has plenty of free resources, including a free guide, for building the dad-son connection.
I put this one first because it's the hardest, and most important. Remember, dad, your son is still the little guy you held as a baby, took care of when he was sick, and took to the park to throw a ball around. He may be bigger (all three of my sons are taller than me), but he's still the same little person you took such good care of when he was growing up.
2. Have "the talk" with your son. I've had different versions of "the talk" with all three of my sons (two of whom are gay) at different times and at different ages. Each and every time it was both necessary and uncomfortable.
The talk should cover all aspects of a healthy sex life, including what to look for in a relationship, avoiding abusive partners, and safer sex practices that include both personal and sexual safety. In the next few weeks I'll write a longer post about "the talk," so be sure to like A Father's Pride on Facebook or follow me on Twitter so you don't miss it!
3. Attend at least three PFLAG meetings. PFLAG is an organization for family members and allies of people who are LGBTQ. Showing up at a meeting tells your son that you are working to understand him. It will also introduce you to other parents with gay kids. Showing up three times makes you more likely to find another dad you click with.
4. Be an ally to other gay youth. If you're reading this blog, I assume that you're a dad who cares about his gay son. Unfortunately, not all dads are as caring and supportive as you are. Over 40% of homeless youth are GLBT, and many are kicked out of their homes by their parents. Chances are your gay son knows a few other GLBT youth who could use some extra support. Let your son know that you are available to help his friends.
5. Support your son's other interests. Your son's sexual orientation is only one part of his personality. As you know, he has several other interests, most likely including one or two that you can also enjoy. Usually, this means setting aside time to show up. If he's in athletics -- go to the matches. If he's in the band, choir, or drama -- go to performances. If he likes video games -- find one you can play together. There are over 10,000 minutes each week, spending 90 of them supporting your son is a sacrifice you can afford to make.
So, dad, look through the list. Chances are good you're already doing one or two of these things. If so, 2016 can be the year you step up your game and do one or two more -- your son will thank you!
No matter what's on your list of New Year's resolutions, share your 2016 plans in the comments section. You could be inspiring another dad struggling to connect with his gay son.