Parenthood: The Do's and Don’ts (But Mostly Do's) of Coming Out


Parenthood: The Do's and Don’ts (But Mostly Do's) of Coming Out

by Audrey Benedetto

NBC’s Parenthood tackles everything from adoption to cancer with grace, heart, and a few tears. True to form, Parenthood’s recent Season 5 finale delivered a beautiful coming out moment between Haddie and her parents.

If you don’t watch the show, here’s a snippet of backstory: Haddie is the college-aged daughter of Adam and Kristina. Haddie, as kids do, comes home for the summer after her first year away. Plot twist: Haddie also brings her “friend” Lauren with her, and is unsure of how to tell her parents that Lauren is actually her girlfriend.

There are several things to take away from the exchanges that happen between Haddie and her parents.

1. Listen. Support. Repeat.

Right off the bat, Haddie uses keywords to talk about Lauren, referring to her as her “super awesome best friend” and describing her friendship with Lauren as a “relationship” when talking with her father. This isn’t always the case, but sometimes a person will throw these words out before ever broaching the topic of coming out, almost like putting out feelers or testing the waters. So look out for these types of keywords; your kid may try to tell you without actually telling you.

So what do you do if your kid seems to be dropping hints? Well, Haddie’s dad, Adam, doesn’t push her to talk about it, which is a very solid move. Instead he just talks to her like any parent would, telling her he’s glad she is back and that he’s happy Haddie found such a good friend in Lauren. In a way, Adam is testing the waters too, showing his support for Haddie’s friendship with Lauren without demanding more information on the nature of their relationship.

2. Processing Takes Time

Kristina, Haddie’s mom, is told by her son that Haddie and Lauren were kissing each other. Initially, Kristina tries to explain it away, saying, “Sometimes when girls kiss they’re just being friendly. They’re just friends.” Even though her words explain away the situation, it is apparent that she’s in a bit of shock as she tries to process this news about her daughter.

It’s okay to feel shock; very few parents imagine their children in a same-sex relationship and there can even be a mourning period when you realize your child may not have the life you envisioned for them. It’s what you do after that initial moment, and throughout your own processing, that’s important. Also, keep in mind that this might not be what your child envisioned for themself either, and they might be just as scared as you are, but that doesn’t mean their coming out has to be a bad thing!

3. Starting the Conversation

Kristina, after her initial moment of shock, decides to talk to Haddie. What is important to notice in this scene is that she does not lead with questions or accusations, but instead stresses that she loves and supports Haddie, and just wants her to happy. Kristina approaches Haddie with casual speech and body language, which can go a long way to make your child feel like “this is okay” and to make honest communication possible. Kristina essentially opens the floor for Haddie to come out, but keeps her language vague enough so that she doesn’t push Haddie into saying anything she isn’t ready for or seem accusatory in any way.

When trying to start a conversation, be open and receptive. Here are some possible phrases you could use:

“Is there anything you want to talk about?”“I want you to know I support you.”“I want you to be happy.”“I love you no matter what.”

The bottom line is: show your kid you love and support them. As long as you’re doing that, you’re on the right track.

4. Listen. Support. Repeat.

After her mom asks her if there is anything she wants to discuss, Haddie decides to be open about her relationship with Lauren. She explains to her mom that she didn’t know how to tell them because she “didn’t want to scare [them] or freak [them] out because nothing’s really different.”

And Haddie is right. Yes, there may be certain things that you worry about (How will my child’s life be altered? What will other people think? What challenges will they face because of this?), but it’s important to remember that nothing about your child has fundamentally changed.

5. Don’t Force Terms

Haddie doesn’t discuss what her relationship with Lauren means for her sexuality, and Kristina doesn’t pressure her to define whether she is gay or identifies as a lesbian.

This is incredibly important. Your child may still be figuring out how they identify, or may have a very fluid sense of identity over the course of their life. Coming out is a process and it often goes through many stages. Your child may come out loud and proud, or they may still be in the middle of figuring it out, but your support and involvement will make all the difference no matter what stage they’re at.

This may all be a lot to take in, and that’s okay. Your child coming out is no small thing. Honestly, it will probably change your life—and it will definitely change theirs. Just remember that there is no script for this; no one can tell you exactly what to say or how to approach this moment. This may be a difficult conversation for both of you, but it can also be a positive, loving moment that strengthens your relationship. That being said, not all coming out conversations go as smoothly as the one between Haddie and Kristina. Don’t be concerned if it’s not as easy as it is on TV… nothing ever is. It may be awkward. There might be some yelling and maybe some tears. It’s okay to be upset or confused, it’s okay to feel whatever emotions you are feeling, but the bottom line is: be supportive.

If there is only one thing you say in the entire conversation, let it be this: “I love and support you.” You may be confused and you may have questions, but remember those words.

Audrey Benedetto is a writer, artist, and human being who currently lives in Manhattan. Her passion for gender, sex, and race issues began in college and influences how she sees and moves through the world. She enjoys karaoke, long walks, and french bulldogs. Audrey is constantly learning and would like to share some of what she’s picked up along the way.