This show is for parents. It's possibly one of the hardest things for you, as a parent, to hear your child utter these three little words, "I am gay." It is also one of the most difficult confessions any child might have to make to his or her parents as the risks are enormous in your child's mind. You could do one of several things when he or she comes out: You could either be loving, understanding and supportive; or, fuelled by the stereotypes of public opinion, righteous indignation and bigotry, you could be shocked, angered and dismayed. Some parents have rejected their children completely, as if the gay or lesbian child had suddenly died. The negative outcome for parents and kids alike are: broken spirits, incongruent minds and ill bodies that fall apart under the giant stresses that follow. This programme shows how parents can go from rejecting their child, feeling guilty, mournful, and frightened to not only accepting but prizing their gay or lesbian child. For the youth, especially gay children, nothing feels better than to bask in the warm glow of a parent's love and approval.

Today's show is for parents.

It's possibly one of the hardest things to hear your child utter three little words that are made up of just six letters of the alphabet, "I am gay." And, it is one of the most difficult confessions any child might have to make to his or her parents. When gay people are ready to reveal their sexual preferences to others, in gayspeak, it called, "Coming Out." When someone else makes this disclosure about a gay person, it's referred to as being, "Outed."

Coming out is a process that happens over many years and at different levels: first, there's a slow realisation that one's sexual attractions lean differently from other boys and girls around you. Some say that this realisation dawns around the tender age of six or seven, for others, it occurs much later in life, and in extreme cases, may only be known in one's more senior years. We are all raised as being part of a community, and we tend to act in ways that we think the community expects us to act. We quickly learn that when people in a group do something in a certain way, we ought to follow and we find approval and acceptance when we do so. It is understandable that early stress arises when gay people begin to realise that core aspects of their lives are very, very different and incongruent from those practiced by the majority. The ability to recognise and label oneself as gay only happens much later in life when they find context for the way they are. Being different from and meeting the disapproval of the group adds so much pressure. Gay adolescents don't usually have a person to talk to about this and are left to fathom out this daunting state of affairs by themselves. The first step in coming out is coming out to oneself. This happens when gay people finally come to accept the fact that they are sexually attracted to others of similar gender. But this isn't always an aha moment when suddenly the penny drops and you say to yourself, "Wow, I never realised it but I'm gay!" Instead, it's often a dark time in gay people's lives when they grapple with their identity and the consequences of being this way in an often-bigoted world. By now, gay youngsters know what's expected of them, 'to get married, raise a family and retire comfortably.' It's template for all their straight acquaintances and family members. Often, gay people have to tolerate snide remarks, like, "When are you going to find a girlfriend? All your friends have girlfriends and boyfriends, you're the only one who hasn't. Is there something wrong with you?" Pressures mount and stress increases. There's an urge in a gay or lesbian's heart to tell others, a burning desire to come clean, to let somebody know who you really are and then, hopefully, to win their trust and confidence. The next step in coming out is usually to select friends or one's siblings. Talking to one's parents is often the very last part of coming out, and most often the most difficult to do. The moment needs to be just right because the outcome can be quite scary and the risks are enormous. Coming out to one's parents is often planned and strategized for a long time and is preceded by huge angst and mounting stress. With the advent of social media, we are able to eavesdrop on some of these moments because some kids recorded and posted their coming-out moments online. Having made the decision to tell one's parents creates huge anticipation. Listen and you'll notice their tension as they prepare to reveal their sexual identity to their parents:

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One has no choice but to resonate with the plight of these young people as they face this make-or-break moment in life. Here are a few recorded examples of how some youth make their confessions to mom and dad:

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Kierkegaard said, "Life can only be understood backwards but it must be lived forwards."

Some parents are very empathetic and loving towards their gay children. Here's an Irish mom's short reaction to her son's disclosure:

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And this is a father's quite decent response to his son's coming out. The father is clearly confused, surprised and shocked by his son's news yet there is an undertone of acceptance and a willingness to reconcile his views:

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But there are many parents who cannot come to terms with their sons and daughters being gay. Their religious convictions about their children's fate, fuels their fear and forces them to make decisions no parent would ever want to make. This is a recording of a sermon by a preacher who had to make a really difficult choice regarding his son's lifestyle disclosure:

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I must apologise in advance for the bit of offensive language found in this next sound-bite but I think the context justifies its unedited inclusion. Daniel, a gay adolescent, uploaded this response from his family when he disclosed to them that he was gay. The recording instantly went viral with tens of millions of views and provoked much heated debate on radio and TV stations. It is an example of what can go wrong and the risks gay people take in coming out to their families:

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Wow! What can I say…

There is no doubt that coming out is as difficult for gays and lesbians who need to make the disclosure as it is for the parents having to hear it. By now, you might understand a little of how this moment changes the course of a gay person's life forever. In these cases, where children have been shunned by their parents, the collateral damage is enormous: families are torn apart, demoralisation sets in with hatred, bitterness, rejection and feelings of utter abandonment and hopelessness. As outraged as you might be at the emotional and physical violence of this last sound-bite, one should feel pity and compassion for the parents too. After all, they are the by-product of an intolerant world, fuelled by the stereotypes of public opinion, righteous indignation and bigotry. The negative outcome for parents and kids alike are: broken spirits, incongruent minds and ill bodies that fall apart under the giant stresses that flow from this.

Dr. Michael LaSala is the author of the book, "Coming Out, Coming Home: Helping Families Adjust to a Gay or Lesbian Child." In the article he wrote for www.psychologytoday.com he makes the point that it sensible to start at the end of the story and then work backwards because there is good news about how families can eventually become more open, warmer, and closer after it is learned that a child is gay or lesbian. Parents can go from rejecting their child, feeling guilty, mournful, and frightened to not only accepting but prizing their gay or lesbian child. For the youth, especially gay children, nothing feels better than to bask in the warm glow of a parent's love and approval. But how is this parental response possible? How can families go from shock to celebration? LaSala writes that the process is not an easy one, nor is it fail-safe. Not all families reach the point where their relationships are stronger and closer than ever before — but some do.

So, what should you do if you suspect that your child is gay or lesbian? Should you keep it hidden or should you speak up? What's the right and wrong path to follow? By really working with it, it can be the biggest challenge and experience in your life. I firmly believe that wisdom seldom comes from lying on the lawn, watching the clouds form but it comes instead from having jumped the biggest hurdles in life. Parents who have children with disabilities (not that I'm equating homosexuality with mental or physical illness) often tell of the immense wisdom that came from having to care for a child of different needs. These experiences force you to push your personal boundaries, come to new insights, stretch yourself and they will challenge the very meaning of what you thought love is.

A fundamental mistake parents make when a child acts 'too gay' (meaning that they show mannerisms of the opposite sex) is to cringe. Parents have a natural bias to want boys to be boys and girls to be girls and any cross-gendered behaviour causes parents to worry that their child is different. Differences in society, like the colour of one's skin, one's religious beliefs and so many other disparities often become targets of discrimination, hostility, even violence, and this fear for your child's future can get in the way. Many religious parents might fear that the Devil is leading their child astray and into a world of debauched sinfulness and ultimately to Hell. Then there are a lot of parents keep the fact that they have a gay child hidden for fear of personal ridicule and accusations of bad parenting from family members and friends. Psychologists however, agree that there isn't anything inherently wrong with a boy who walks, talks, and dresses effeminately or a girl who is butch and tomboyish.

Heterosexual parents often have no context or understanding of what being gay really means and they are at a complete loss as to how they should interact with their gay or lesbian child. The most practical advice for parents in this situation is to find a trusted confidant who can help cast some insight into what to expect and offer some practical advice as to what can be done for the child. Such trusted persons might be a gay acquaintance, and open-minded, non-judgemental friend of the family or a therapist who specialises in this field. Talking to your confidant will help you deal with your darkest fears, feelings of anger, guilt, grief and loss. These sorts of discussions will help you to realise that having a gay or lesbian child was never your fault, that your son or daughter can still live a very happy, fulfilled and productive life and that you can be an intrinsic part of your child's life. These important allies help give parents hope. Incorrect criticism, judgement and misunderstandings run the risk of losing your child, possibly forever.

LaSala adds this advice: If kids are on-target with their life goals, succeeding in school, developing mature friendships and romantic relationships and keeping good connections with those in the family circle, this goes a long way to reassure parents and helps them to adjust. Parents who felt bad at having a gay child can adjust to more positive thoughts when they see their child excelling in life. Children rely on their parents for love, acceptance and respect and they will respond with closeness and gratitude when parents interact with them in this way. Family members find reciprocating feelings for each other, for the good or bad, and it's up to the parents to properly steer the course of events towards a good and positive outcome.

LaSala comments that a small number of the gay youth were like unmoored boats bobbing about on a rough sea; they seemed lost and directionless, either falling out of school, or not getting or keeping a job, largely due to crippling depression. Children, traumatised by years of self-loathing and/or peer harassment, coping with being gay or lesbian was just too much for them. Some found benefit in seeking professional therapeutic help but sadly, others succumbed to the pressure and many suicided. Gay children need more of your help than most others because they will experience a lifestyle throughout their life that is very, very different to their heterosexual peers. Setting aside your own prejudices and fears and devoting your love and affection for your child can prepare him or her for this very different future. Hang in there and stay hopeful.