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More parents seek help about gay kids

Benson Ang, The New Paper, January 28, 2009

MORE parents are seeking counselling to come to terms with their children's
homosexual tendencies.

Psychologist Daniel Koh saw three such cases of parents last year, which is more
than the number he saw two years ago.

He told The New Paper of a case involving parents who had brought their
18-year-old son for counselling last year because he was leaning towards
homosexuality. The boy felt confused and stressed because he was not interested
in girls, and was interested in images of men in magazines.

When their only son spoke about his frustrations to his parents, they took him
to a psychologist.

The boy's father, who is in his 40s, insisted that homosexuality does not exist,
and demanded that the boy be 'changed'.

The parents tried to get the boy to dress in sports jerseys, shorts and clothes
with military motifs.

They also tried to get the boy to play football and adopt more masculine
mannerisms.

Outside of sports, they discouraged him from hanging out with male friends, and
tried to introduce him to girls.

These efforts, however, were strongly resented by the boy, who began avoiding
the issue of his sexuality. At one point, he stopped talking to his parents
altogether.

The psychologist tried to get the parents to understand the boy's position, and
tried to open communication between the two parties.

Eventually, the parents backed off, and let the boy live his own life.

Mr Koh said: 'This case shows that being hard and forceful will only make
matters worse. If parents push too hard, they'll just push their children away.'

Mrs Kam-Poh Ee-Lyn, a family life educator who has counselled young lesbians and
their parents, says that when parents find out their children are gay or
lesbian, they tend to go through psychological stages, like people who are
grieving.

First, these parents may be in shock.

Then, they may deny their children's tendencies, rationalising to themselves
that the latter are just going through a phase.

When they realise that such tendencies are a real issue, they might blame
themselves for their children's sexuality, before coming to terms with the
situation.

In any case, Mrs Kam warns that such conflicts may lead to more serious issues,
like children running away from home.

She said more parents may be seeking counselling about their children's
homosexuality because gay youth are becoming more upfront about their
relationships.

Family therapist Juliana Toh, who is seeing more parents with gay children, also
suggested that the increase may be due to the fact that more children are
feeling confident about their relationship with their parents, so they are
comfortable in disclosing their gender leanings.

She said: 'The most important thing is to help the parents see that they have
not lost their son or daughter. He or she is still the same person.'

'And at the end of the day, all parents want their child to have a companion, to
be loved and cared for, regardless of this companion's gender.'