Our adult daughter has chosen to walk away from the faith she was raised in and all that we taught her. She’s also come out as gay. I have grieved deeply, lost much of myself along the way, and find myself struggling to know how to connect with my daughter.
I know I need to move towards her with love and rebuild relationship with her – but am struggling to know how to do so without it feeling fake and “surfacey” because we can’t talk about the things that really matter. I wonder what has helped you in this very specific situation – are there resources you have found helpful?
Dear Needing Help,
I’m glad you reached out. Many parents of adult children experience this dilemma. They don’t know how to relate to their children who are making choices that are different than how they were raised. Many of us think, “Wow…this is not what I thought my life would look like at all.”
You said: “I am struggling to know how to do so without it feeling fake and ‘surfacey’ because we can’t talk about the things that really matter.”
Here’s what I’ve found most helpful: Talk to her about the things that matter to her. That’s how you start to build relationship with her. No, it’s not what you’d like to be talking about but it’s where you need to start. Be genuinely interested in who she is. What she’s doing. Reading. Watching. What podcasts she’s listening to. What she loves. Ask about her friends that you start to know as she shares about her life. This is the stuff that relationships are built of.
Share with her the same things in your life if she’s open to that, but if it’s more of a one-sided conversation, that’s okay too. It’s important to be the bigger person and make it about her for now. These conversations aren’t fake or surfacey. They are the building blocks of a relationship because you’re stepping into her world.
Jesus was a master at stepping into other people’s worlds. He went to their home, had dinner with them, heard their stories, asked questions, and loved well even when he didn’t agree with their choices. He loved unconditionally. We need to do the same.
Many of us have been performance-parenting and it’s time to move to relationship-parenting. Brenda Yoder and I talk about that in this podcast episode. Another podcast episode that may be helpful is one that I did with Lori Wildenberg called Offering the Prodigal a Way Home.
As far as resources go for parenting an LGBTQ child, I share my best resources on this blog post. I also address it in my Empty Nest Full Life book and I have a workshop in my online shop called When Your Child Says, “My Life, My Choice” that you might find helpful.
Finally, it’s important you don’t make your daughter’s decisions about you. The minute you do, you become an ineffective parent and you’ll be unable to build a relationship with her as you’ll be filtering every thought and conversation through the wrong lens. She’s figuring out the world and she has to be able to do that and still have parents who support her, guide her, and love her unconditionally.
And with God’s help, you have what it takes to do just that.
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