Don’t ask this like a parole officer looking for malfeasance, but as a counselor empathizing and seeking to understand. Maybe even ask, “How have your friends responded to this? How has your family responded to this?” And then eventually, “How does this make you feel?” Kids identifying as LGBTQ are at a higher risk for suicide, depression and many other factors. Keep your eyes open for any of these risk factors.
The more questions you ask, the more you’ll shift from lecturing to listening. And listening is where empathy begins.
You can try listening techniques like repeating or rewording what you hear her say. “It sounds like you felt rejected.” Or, “It sounds like you feel alone.”
This opens the door to…
3. “Affirm” them in a way they’ll never expect
I’m taking a big risk even using the word “affirm” here because that word has grown to convey “I accept, encourage and support your decision.” That’s not what I’m suggesting. I’m suggesting you affirm/encourage them that they are loved.
I might say it like this:
“Well, it sounds like you’re going through a lot of changes. So, I want to encourage you during these changes two things will never change: God loves you, and I love you.”
But more than just telling them, let them know God loves them unconditionally by you loving them unconditionally.
I can’t help but think of the youth pastor I know who found out a hate group (like Westboro) was coming to town so he made buttons, “Loved by God” and passed them out to all his kids identifying as LGBTQ. He simply put a label to something he had been modeling through his ministry. This was a youth pastor who didn’t agree with homosexual behavior, but he kept the conversation open by not “leading” with his theology. He led with love and pointed people to Jesus.
It’s hard to introduce people to Jesus when they don’t even want to talk with us in the first place.
Are you ready for these kinds of conversations?
This article originally appeared here.