Section One: Personal Healing

Section one is about taking care of yourself, dealing with your personal issues and experiencing God's love. You will encounter many emotions along the way. It is important to take care of yourself and your marriage (if you are married). If you want your child to heal, work on healing yourself. Lead by example. Seek support from your family, friends, spiritual community and God.

Step One: Take Care of Yourself

Self-care is crucial when dealing with a loved one's SSA. You will need to handle your emotions, thoughts and spiritual life in healthy ways. Generally it is easier to talk about drug, alcohol or sexual addictions with others than it is to discuss the issue of homosexuality. We have come a long way in dealing with these other issues, but there is still additional shame when dealing with SSA—for your child and also for you. We can change this discrepancy only through education. Educate yourself first, then your loved ones and finally the supportive community around you.

Initial feelings and emotions that you may continue to experience may include shock, denial, guilt, shame, disgust, confusion, loss, anger, sadness, betrayal, mistrust, numbness, fear and grief. You will probably say it a thousand times: "I can't believe this is happening to me!" Yes, it is devastating. Few parents would want their child to have to deal with homosexuality. Life is rough enough. But here it is, and it is no longer about "them." It's about you and your child.

Be Gracious to Yourself

Be gracious to yourself. Feelings are feelings. They are neither good nor bad; they just are. And you will go through many of them over and over again. You may experience feelings of repulsion or recoil, or as one parent called it in teleconferencing class, the "yuck" factor. This is a gut response to homosexuality that most people experience. It is a built-in biological defense to what we do not understand or what we fear. For anyone who has never experienced SSA, the gut reaction is usually, "Yuck! How could anyone want such a thing? It's against nature." Yes, it is against natural law. However, your child has wrestled with SSA for many reasons and has fought long and hard to gain self-acceptance. By now homosexual desires feel natural to her.

Authors Peter and Barbara Wyden explain:

[One] reason why so many people shy away from our subject is the common conviction that homosexuality is incurable. This was long believed to be true about cancer, and it made cancer an unspeakable subject. But in recent years, news about the curability of cancer has spread considerably, and the topic is no longer taboo. News about the curability of homosexuality has not spread. A more significant difference is that while many forms of cancer are not readily preventable, most homosexuality—conceivably almost all—probably is.

Another area that might cause you to recoil has to do with our ideas about the traditional family. The homosexual community is redefining the family through same-sex couples, adoption and bearing children through artificial insemination. In all likelihood, this is not what you dreamed of or wished for your child's future. The revelation of her homosexuality might well involve the loss of your dreams for her marriage and your grandchildren.

What you will come to realize through this journey is that you must resist your gut reactions—your defensive physiology—and focus instead on the causes and healing of SSA. That is the best way for you to respond to your child and others with SSA—displaying the right kind of love that is deeper than mere emotion. Much of what you will need to say and do will be counterintuitive to the yuck factor. This process will take time, so be patient with yourself and your loved ones. Ask them to be patient with you. You are, after all, in a process that is very similar to that of grieving a significant loss.

Recognize the Five Stages of Grieving

Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross speaks of five stages of grieving in her classic book On Death and Dying. Here are the basic steps, each of which is applicable to finding out that your child has SSA:

  1. Denial: "This can't be happening to me/us/him/her."
  2. Anger: "Why did this happen? I did my best."
  3. Bargaining: "Please God, if we do ______, change him/her."
  4. Depression: "It's true, and I can't stand this. It's too painful. I want my child to marry and have children. My dreams are lost."
  5. Acceptance: "Okay, this is true. What now? What can I do to assist him/her? How can I take care of myself in the process?"

You will revisit these stages over and over again. It is important to keep expressing your feelings and thoughts to your spouse, friends and loved ones as well as to yourself and God. The more you are able to express yourself, the more quickly you will pass through the five stages. As the saying goes, "You must feel and be real in order to heal." Feelings that are buried alive never really die. If left unexpressed, they get repressed, which further complicates the situation.

Do not try to manage things on your own. We exist in relationships. If you share your thoughts and feelings only with God or your pillow at night, you are prolonging the process of healing. This will not serve you or your child. Find others with whom to share your feelings.

While you are dealing with your child's SSA, you may find yourself burdened with guilt. "It's all my fault" is a natural reaction, but it simply isn't true. You can be sure that there are many potential causes for your child's SSA. An important point to realize and remember is this: It is not the parenting that creates SSA in men or women. It is the child's temperament combined with his perception of the parenting and other social influences that makes all the difference. Perception becomes reality.

Most children who develop SSA are highly sensitive and easily hurt. After experiencing some hurt, they easily cut off and detach emotionally—with or without your awareness. That is when the relationship gets derailed. The healing of SSA is about retracing those steps, getting back to where things went off track and reconnecting in a healthy way with oneself and one's parents.

Yes, you will experience many difficult emotions. Be assured that there is no "right" way to go through this. Take your time. Share your heart with God and others. One parent in a teleconferencing class commented, "Why did God do this to me and our son? I am so angry and confused. I am overwhelmed and cannot cope with this!" She was hurt and upset for many months. But finally, after studying and listening to the teachings and experiences of other parents, her final comment was, "I've learned that God did not do this to my son. I felt betrayed by him... but I finally came to the realization that he did not make this happen."

The process of grieving takes time and has its own rhythm.

SSA Isn't Really About Sex

As we've seen, SSA springs from many sources. Primarily it relates to unhealed emotional wounds and needs for love that remained unmet. Your work will be easier if you focus on your child's wounded heart, not on sexual behavior. Seek the hurt child within the adolescent or adult, a child who is crying out for love. You are the answer, not his boyfriend, not her girlfriend. You are the solution to healing your loved one's SSA, which is the story of a wounded child searching for love in all the wrong places and in all the wrong ways.

Welcome to Your Child's World

After finding out about a child's SSA, you probably went through the stages of shock, pain, grief, denial, confusion, hopelessness and "Why me?" This is the same process your child has probably gone through for years, though you never knew it. "Welcome to my world," your son or daughter might be saying to you. Isn't that painful to think about?

Without their parents' knowledge, SSA youngsters are forced to deal with this "unwanted harvest." It took them many years and tears to come to a place of acceptance. You are now entering their world. It is painful. It is unknown. Share your thoughts and feelings with your child. Grieve together if you are comfortable in doing so. See the situation from his point of view; your child has so much to teach you.

After discussing this idea in a teleconferencing class one evening, a mother sent me a lengthy e-mail. Every word rings true:

Your comment, "Welcome to Peter's world," was a turning point in our healing journey. In mid-April I was feeling very overwhelmed with my efforts to deal with Peter's SSA. He was approaching his twenty-sixth birthday, and as I reminisced over the years, I had intense feelings of being a failure as his mother. It had been ten months since I found out about Peter's SSA. I was overwhelmed with feelings of disbelief and guilt, and a painful sadness that tore at my heart every waking moment. Fear of the unknown with the scope of what we were faced with regarding his SSA haunted me. Frightened, oh so frightened, for what lay ahead for him and us in this SSA lifestyle... isolation, loneliness, AIDS, rejection of family and society, and a host of things I could only imagine. I was embarrassed, ashamed, scared and very, very sad.

It was at this time during our Parent's Teleconferencing Class when I was sharing these feelings that you very simply stated, "Welcome to Peter's world!" In that instant I knew for the very first time that I was experiencing just a microcosm of what day-to-day life was like for Peter. I was humbled. When he had shared his feelings and his SSA journey with us, it was just that, his journey. Even though we had talked with him, cried with him, and he shared the same feeling words with us about his experience, we had not fully related. In that simple statement, "Welcome to Peter's world," we had unity of feelings with our son. We had a newfound respect for what it must have been like for him during the time he dealt with his SSA on his own, searching for answers, praying, reaching out in all the wrong places.

With our newfound perspective, Harry and I forged a new relationship with Peter. There is a new respect between us. For the very first time we are, in some ways, walking in his shoes. We are different. Once we changed our perspectives, we began to notice a change in Peter. He has a new attitude toward us, a more genuine sensitivity. We talked with him, cried with him and told him, for the first time, we realized our feelings very closely reflected his. We had no idea of the magnitude of what he was and is dealing with until we tried to deal with it ourselves.

Peter's world is not an easy one. But it is the one in which he lives. We are blessed to have been given genuine insight into his world no matter how frightening it is, for him and for us. Now the journey is under way to help him make his world the best possible place it can be. With God's grace and Richard's guidance, hope is the new feeling we share with Peter.

Acknowledge Name-Calling and Rejection

Imagine going to school each day and wondering when the next kid will say to you, "Hey, faggot, get the hell out of here!" or "You dyke! Go play with the boys!" How would you feel? Such abuse hardly creates a wonderful and welcoming place to study and find friends. Yet your child might have experienced this at school.

How about going to the lunchroom and knowing that no one wants you to sit at their table? Or knowing in gym class that you will be the last one picked for the team? How would that make you feel? These are just some of the experiences your child may have lived through, in all likelihood without your knowledge. Many were mocked from the time they were in elementary school. It is very hurtful for any child to be called names. Those with SSA are prone to be hypersensitive; they are usually neither aggressive nor outspoken in their personalities. Chances are, you never heard about what happened to them at school when other kids ridiculed them.

Often kids use "gay" or "faggot" without actually meaning that the target of their abuse is someone dealing with SSA. They are simply using these words as general put-downs. However, if there is some homo-emotional or homo-social wounding already present in that child's heart, she begins to internalize these negative comments and may more easily accept the verdict "I'm gay."

Imagine being in the church youth group where kids are joking about "the faggots," saying, "We should haul their asses out of town." One teenager I counseled said those were the exact comments of peers in his youth group. How do you think he felt? All this may be new to you, but most likely it is commonplace to your SSA child. You will need to listen and catch up with what your child has experienced.

Stop Self-Accusation

Initially you may blame yourself and/or your spouse for your child's SSA. Don't waste another minute: stop the blame game, because it does not help you, your spouse or your child. The only thing that will change the situation is taking personal responsibility for past mistakes, which means apologizing, making amends and creating a loving attachment between you, your spouse and your child. The rest of the treatment plan is all about taking these necessary steps into healing and reconciliation.

If you feel in need of it, receive God's forgiveness for whatever you may regret, and then forgive yourself. What you can do now is love God, love yourself and love others. Listen to your heart, be attentive and take care of your own needs in healthy ways. If you love yourself as God loves you, you will be better equipped to love your spouse and child.

Acute guilt is healthy. Chronic guilt is toxic. Here is an exercise to help relieve you of your guilt. Follow it step by step, and repeat as necessary. Use it with your spouse or a close friend, not with your SSA child. (I will discuss in step six how to apologize to your child directly.)

  1. Write a list of things you feel bad about (things you said or did and things you didn't do that you wish you had done), for example, "As your mother, I kept you too close to me and said bad things about your father"; "As your father, I didn't spend enough time with you because I worked too much and I didn't understand your needs."
  2. Role-play with your spouse or close friend. Have him play the part of your SSA child. Hold hands, imagining that you are sharing with your child. Read through your list. Look at the first sentence, and if it helps, close your eyes and imagine saying it directly to your child, apologizing for your inappropriate behavior or words. Breathe, express your feelings and then move to the next sentence. Work through your list in this manner. Take your time. Grieve as necessary. Remember, we must feel in order to heal.
  3. Allow your spouse or friend to respond as he believes your SSA child would (for example, offering forgiveness, rebuffing your apology or getting upset). Just listen. You don't need to respond unless you desire to do so.
  4. After listening to the one role-playing your SSA child, close your eyes and ask God to forgive you for all these things. Then listen for his response. Be quiet. Wait on the Lord. Move to the next step after you receive an answer.
  5. Finally, ask yourself for forgiveness. This may be the most difficult step to accomplish. It's easier to forgive others than it is to forgive ourselves. After receiving God's forgiveness, allow your spouse or trusted friend to play the role of you. Hold the person's hands and say, "[Your name], would you please forgive me for all these things?" Then close your eyes and listen to the voice within. There may be a lot of discourse and self-accusation. Just listen and let it all pour out. Don't censor, don't try to change the messages, just be a good listener. Again, you may have to ask the question, "[Your name], would you please forgive me for all these things?" Keep repeating the question, and keep listening until all the dialogue is complete and until the voice within says, "Yes, I forgive you."

You may need to repeat this exercise many times. Forgiveness in one's mind and forgiveness in one's heart take time. Again, ask your spouse or close friend to do this exercise with you. The sooner you receive God's forgiveness, and forgive yourself, the sooner you will be ready to take the necessary steps to help your child heal and grow.

Create an Alliance of Love

An "alliance of love" is what your family is about to become. This loving alliance is essential between same-sex family members: father and son, mother and daughter, brother and brother, sister and sister, grandfather and grandson, grandmother and granddaughter, uncle and nephew, aunt and niece. This is a suggestion that bears repeating, and you will hear me say it again and again: The goal of this twelve-step plan is to create greater intimacy and secure attachment with your SSA child. Change is a byproduct of healing.

Dad, you may need to stretch your heart to understand your son. Mom, you may need to stretch your heart to understand your daughter. I have seen a double blessing occur in this process of reconciliation. By consciously creating an alliance of love, you will bring your child closer, you will experience more of your own humanity, and you will face your shortcomings. As you seek healing for your child, you may find healing for yourself in the process.

Grieve with Others

You cannot change the past. And it is unhealthy for you to live the rest of your life in the shadow of self-blame. However, it is important to grieve about what has happened. Grieve with others—your spouse, your child, someone who cares and understands. Do not grieve alone; otherwise it will become cyclical and perhaps even obsessive. What was born in broken relationships must be healed in healthy relationships. Consider joining a support group for parents sponsored by PFOX, JONAH or another ministry. We grow and heal in relationships. If you want your child to heal, lead by example. Heal yourself.

Create a Support System

As you seek support from family members, friends, religious leaders and your spiritual community, shame and guilt may try to stop you. If anyone judges you or your SSA child, please know that this kind of judgment isn't really about you or your child; it is about others and their lack of understanding SSA. What they and most people require is education about the truth of same-sex attraction and how they can be of assistance. (I talk more about this in section three of this book: "Community Healing.")

Create a supportive community around yourself, your spouse (if you have one) and your SSA child. Your support system may consist of, but not be limited to, the following:

Please don't try to carry this burden alone. It is important to surround yourself and your SSA child with a group of loving and caring men and women. This is a battle of love versus lies. Reach out and garner as much support as you possibly can.

Almost every SSA family member has said words like these:

I am afraid of telling other family members and friends about our child's homosexuality. I am afraid that when they find out, their opinion of our son and our family will change. Then the concept that our child is gay will be fixed in their minds, and the possibility of his coming out of homosexuality will become less and less.

I know you may have many fears, and some of them are based in unfortunate realities. I know that some people may have negative reactions when hearing about your child's SSA. Please allow me to reassure you that their reactions have nothing to do with you or your child and have everything to do with their ignorance about SSA. If someone says that homosexuality is a choice and your child must repent of this "sin," you need to educate that person about the truth of SSA: no one chooses to have homosexual desires; the choice is whether to act on those desires or not. (See step four for more details about the causes of SSA.)

The longer you resist opening up to others, the more you are blocking the opportunities for your child to grow. It takes a community to raise and heal a child. You too need support. If my parents had asked my brother, uncles, grandfathers and friends of the family to express love to me as much and as often as possible, I truly believe they would have saved me years of heartaches and pain.

Attend and Participate in Support Groups

You may want to look for local Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays (PFOX) or Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality (JONAH) chapters in your area. PFOX and JONAH have support groups throughout the country and world, and they offer online support groups. Several other organizations that offer assistance to men and women with unwanted SSA have parents groups as well: Exodus International (Christian), Evergreen International (Mormon), Courage/Encourage (Catholic), One by One (Presbyterian), Transforming Congregations (Methodist), Powerful Change Ministry Group (Christian/African American). PeopleCanChange.com offers online support groups for wives of men dealing with SSA. (Search the Positive Alternatives To Homosexuality [PATH] website, www.pathinfo.org, or see "International Resources" at the back of this book for more information on these and other groups.)

If you cannot find local assistance, the International Healing Foundation offers teleconferencing classes for parents. Through a series of nine classes held over three months, we coach families in the process of reconciliation and in dealing with their SSA children. These classes also provide a support group for parents (many call and e-mail each other during the week).

It has been said, "When the child 'comes out,' the parents go in the closet." We must destigmatize SSA for everyone's sake. Everywhere I go, I share about the truth of SSA: at the post office, at my kids' schools, on the soccer field watching my son's game. Today people are not as judgmental and are more open to discussing homosexuality Do not let that little voice in your head that says, "What will people think?" stop you from sharing and reaching out for help. We must educate everyone about the truth of SSA so our kids have a chance to heal within their own community.

It is important to listen carefully to other parents who have SSA children. Learn from their mistakes and victories. You do not need to reinvent the wheel, and you do not have to be alone in your pain. Please do not isolate yourself. By sharing with others who have SSA children, you can gain strength in working toward a common goal. Join together and inspire each other to continue on the path of healing. Pray together and for one another. Extend your alliance of love to include these other parents. There is strength in numbers and power from mutual support.

Maintain Balance in Your Life

Do your best not to make your child's SSA the sole focus of your life. I know for a fact that it's possible to become totally absorbed with this issue. I suggest that you make these your priorities:

  1. Experience God's personal love.
  2. Take care of yourself, maintain balance in your life, go out and have some fun. There is life apart from your child's SSA.
  3. Take care of your marriage (if you are married).

Love yourself and love your spouse, and you will have more love to offer your children, especially your child with SSA. This process of bonding with your SSA child is going to require a lot of energy. Your love tank needs to be continuously refilled. Stop living in a state of worry, anger, guilt and fear. Instead be filled with joy and love. Find peace in the moment.

Do not get sucked into the SSA vacuum, feeling hopeless, helpless, discouraged and consumed with worry, guilt and shame. There may be a tendency to be obsessed with thoughts such as, What if ____ finds out? What if she says, "You must have been a lousy parent. Why else would you have a child who is gay?" You will need to choose carefully those with whom you share about your child's SSA, because there is so much judgment and rejection by those who should be the most loving and understanding. Sadly this is especially true in the religious community.

You may become exhausted and fed up from time to time, so this bears repeating: take time out for yourself, smell the roses, kick up your heels, play some games, have some fun, feed your soul, nourish the relationship with your spouse and spend time with friends.

This Is a Marathon, Not a Sprint

One father who successfully helped his son change from a homosexual to a heterosexual orientation began to limit his work time. Instead of putting in a sixty-hour workweek, he took off fifteen hours and began to devote that extra time to studying about SSA and to loving his son.

This wise father also renewed his spiritual life and garnered support from family and friends. He knew this path of healing would take time, so he created more time for his son. Within three years, his labor of love bore fruit. Instead of attending the GSA alliance at school, his son is now dating a young woman and hanging out with other guys (read his story at the end of step ten). But it didn't happen overnight. Remember, this is a marathon, not a sprint.

Step Two: Do Your Own Work

It may be tempting to blame your spouse or other people for your child's same-sex attraction. But please keep in mind that healing your relationship with your child is not a blame game. Although it is important to identify what may have taken place in the past, and it is essential to take positive steps toward reconciliation and restoration for the future, accusing others of being at fault in the situation is counterproductive. It is best for both parents to share the healing process together, to grieve together and to pray together. If spouses blame one another for past events, they create further distance between themselves, which invariably ends up being counterproductive in their efforts to restore their SSA child. Later we'll look at healthy ways to express thoughts and feelings without assigning blame (see step five).

Stop Pushing Your Spouse to "Do the Right Thing"

Without pointing fingers at one another, each parent will probably find it necessary to make certain changes in behavior and attitude toward the SSA child. No matter how necessary those changes may seem, do not nag, push, coerce or threaten your spouse regarding them. When you do so, you become your spouse's parent (wife becomes like her husband's mother, and husband would be like his wife's father)—and this creates an additional strain on the relationship. Your spouse will resent you, and your child will be the biggest loser of all.

Moms who have sons dealing with SSA and dads who have SSA daughters, now is the time for you to take a backseat. Be a quiet encourager. Pray for bonding between father and son or mother and daughter. Shed tears with your spouse; express your pain about the situation. It is far better for us to show our feelings than to give orders. And we should grieve over our own mistakes, not our spouse's.

If the same-sex parent in your situation is unable to bond with the SSA child, then try—again, without accusing anyone—to find others to help. Take positive steps for your own well-being and that of your child. There are others in the community who may be better equipped to help your child experience healthy same-sex paternal or maternal love. Work with them to create secure attachment for your struggling daughter or son (see step twelve).

If You Want Your Child to Change, Change Yourself

As Peter and Barbara Wyden write,

Before you embark on steps to redirect your child, you must face the possibility—indeed the strong likelihood—that changes will have to be made not only within your son or daughter but also within yourself, your spouse or both of you.... It is by no means necessary to be a "bad" or neglectful parent to be a homosexuality-inducing parent. Parents almost never encourage these tendencies with evil intent. Quite the contrary, many parental actions that encourage homosexuality actually stem from a mother or father's intense desire to do what they conceive to be their very best for the child's welfare.

Your healing, both as an individual and as a couple, will have a positive impact on your SSA child as well as on the rest of your family. In the same way, unresolved issues will negatively influence your children. If you truly want your son or daughter to heal, you will need to face your own fear, anger, sadness and disappointment. In doing so, you lead your child by example.

If you are hurting, grieve. If you are angry, express your feelings in a positive and assertive manner without hurting anybody else. Medicating your feelings through increased activities, blaming or using alcohol or drugs will serve only to delay progress—both yours and your child's. Instead I encourage you to face your feelings, trace their origins, release the pain, receive comfort from those you trust and create an action plan for personal, marital and family healing. It is essential to keep in mind—and you'll hear me say this again and again—that SSA is primarily a symptom of unhealed emotional wounds and unmet needs for love.

When a child falls down and scrapes his knee, he cries because it hurts. He does not need to hear promises that the pain will subside in a given amount of time or warnings that it is therefore unnecessary for him to cry. Nor does he need to be told about the nature of his cut and that the bleeding will stop once a scab forms. He simply needs you to hold him in your arms and listen to his pain.

"Mommy, Daddy, it really hurts," he cries.

"Yes, Son, we know it does, and we are here for you."

Once he hears those reassuring words, he begins to breathe more freely. Your loving touch and your caring presence start to heal his hurt and heart. Then you clean the scrape, apply some ointment and put on a Band-aid to protect the wound. Afterward he smiles, gives you a big kiss and says, "Thank you." And he is off to play once again.

That is how inner healing works too. The problem, however, is that most of us are afraid to express our hurt feelings; in fact, we may work very hard to keep them at bay. Worse than that, we may not even be in touch with our emotions. Yet we must feel in order to heal, and the more we demonstrate our willingness to be authentic, the more likely our children will be able to open up and share their hearts with us. Of course I am not saying that we should "dump" our issues on our children. We simply need to do our own work of inner healing, independently of them.

You probably felt powerless when you first had to face your child's SSA, because you could not control her behavior and thought process. If you tried, you quickly discovered that it only created a power struggle and caused more problems. Later I will offer many positive activities to promote relational intimacy. However, please be mindful that you cannot change your child. You can change only yourself. Please accept your limitations, and accept her right to be independent. Only then will you be able to create wonderful opportunities for healing and reconciliation.

To do this, you need to disentangle yourself from your child's SSA and/or homosexual behavior. Just as you should not blame others, you need to avoid blaming yourself. Self-blame may cause you to overreact and thus to become even more overinvolved. That, in turn, can prevent you from making necessary changes in your own life and marriage. Here are three unmistakable signs of being overly involved in your child's life:

  1. Your child's SSA determines how you feel on a minute-by-minute, day-by-day basis.
  2. Your preoccupation with your child's SSA causes you to neglect other people and activities in your life.
  3. You act like a detective, trying to find out about your child's every move, looking and listening for clues much of the time.

In Search of Inner Health

One of the first tools I give to most of my clients is a workbook titled Ten Days to Self-Esteem by Dr. David Burns. It is a very simple and effective approach to dealing with negative thought processes and creating positive, rational responses. Dad and Mom, why not go through this workbook yourselves? I recommend doing one step every two weeks and regularly. In fact, you may want to consider doing the exercises at the same time and sharing your homework with your child. I counseled a father and his teenage son; both did the exercises, and it helped the dad as much as it encouraged his son.

Next I have my clients do "inner child" work by using Dr. Lucia Capacchione's Recovery of Your Inner Child, along with an inner-child meditation CD I have created. ("Inner child" is another name for our unconscious self, that which remains hidden from our conscious mind.) Using these two tools helps begin the process of getting in touch with feelings and needs. This is an essential part of the healing process, reawakening the precious little boy or girl we used to be.

It is important that we become good parents to ourselves, rather than expecting others to always take care of our needs. I also try to encourage my clients to get in touch with their feelings by using a very simple technique called focusing (see the book by that name by Eugene Gendlin). Through a six-step method, focusing helps us identify where in the body we feel our emotions, what the feeling is, where it comes from and what we need to do in response to it. This requires a lot of practice, but it is well worth the time. Through inner-child work and focusing, we gain a greater sense of self-worth and self-awareness.

Simultaneously it is essential to build a community of family and friends to surround and support you. Just as the SSA person needs others to aid in their healing, so do parents. We require a support system to strengthen and comfort us. Dads, find and connect with male friends who stand with you. Moms, make sure you have a number of trustworthy female friends. Whatever you do, avoid isolation from others. Going it alone will eventually prove to be counterproductive.

Do you want your child to open up and share hurts from the past? Again, "Be the change you wish to see in the world," as Gandhi said. Get help and support to resolve any outstanding issues you may have with your own parents, whether they are alive or deceased. It is never too late to heal. As you demonstrate your willingness to make peace with your parents, your children will feel more comfortable about opening up to you.

When you are doing your own work or therapy, you may choose to invite your children to participate in counseling sessions. It is a good way to enroll them into the healing process as this is a family affair. Use these magic words when inviting them into the session: "Would you please do it to help me?" Let them know it is about you and your issues, that you want them to participate so you can take responsibility for things that happened in the past. If you make the process about you, your child will feel less threatened and more inclined to attend. And do not single out the SSA child; make sure the entire family is included. Assuming there are siblings, invite all your children to be present. (See information about family healing sessions at the end of step six and addendum at the back of the book.)

Your child may be carrying some of your unhealed wounds and unmet love needs, or those of the family lineage (please see Exodus 34:6-7). Generally this amounts to a systemic repetition of lineage detachment between fathers and sons or mothers and daughters. Or it may represent intense wounding between those of the opposite sex: husbands and wives, mothers and sons, or fathers and daughters. These kinds of unresolved family issues can be internalized and manifest in your SSA child. The more actively you pursue your own healing and begin to treat your spouse and children in a more loving manner, the sooner the groundwork is laid for your SSA child's transformation.

Seek Couples Therapy

The best gift you can give your children is to love your spouse. We represent Mr. and Mrs. God to our kids, and disharmony in our marriages affects them deeply and directly. Meanwhile, dealing with a child's SSA— always a stressful and delicate situation—will exacerbate any marital difficulties already present. With this in mind, consider finding a therapist who specializes in couples counseling. Take time to communicate and to work on your relationship, so you will both be stronger and more united. In short, if you are married, work hard on your marriage.

If there are no organizations or support groups in your area to suggest local referrals, contact the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) for a list of therapists throughout the country who believe in the possibility of change. However, even though NARTH therapists are supportive, they may have limited experience working with SSA families (see step four for the list of questions to ask prospective therapists). JONAH and Evergreen International also maintain a list of effective and skilled therapists who specialize in SSA issues, therapists of all religions and secular therapists as well. (See "International Resources" at the back of this book for more information on organizations.)

Be careful about contacting just any therapist. Most counselors today are educated and trained in "gay affirmative therapy." They have learned to encourage their clients to embrace SSA as "innate and immutable," and they will coach you, the parents, to accept your child's homosexuality. If you resist, they will tell you, "You are the problem, not your child." If you cannot find anyone in your area who is willing to work with you as you seek help for your child, contact Positive Alternatives to Homosexuality (PATH) organizations for further assistance.

Find Joy in Your Relationship

In the midst of all this, bear in mind that it is very important to balance your efforts with a measure of joy. It bears repeating that the best gift we can give our children is our love for one another. When they see restored unity and affection between dad and mom, they will feel more secure and at peace.

With this knowledge, be sure to add romance and spice to your life with your spouse. Go on dates together. Have fun. Do things that you both enjoy. Staying home and suffering serves no one, while the more love you generate between the two of you, the more love you will have for your children. So laugh. Watch funny movies. Stay away from issues and situations that will bring you down. Also, do not continuously subject yourselves to the subject of homosexuality. Instead make it your business to achieve balance, balance and more balance.

Step Three: Experience God's Love

If you believe in God and have a prayerful relationship with him, there may be a tendency for you to ask him for a proverbial silver bullet: "Dear Lord, please take away my child's SSA." Unfortunately things don't work that way. Allow me to suggest some more effective prayers.

For years, my own prayer was, "God, please take away these desires." When he didn't, I blamed him for my suffering. However, it was never my heavenly Father who gave me same-sex attractions. They were the result of a constellation of man-made factors: hypersensitive temperament, distant relationship with my father, sexual abuse from my uncle, antagonistic relationship with my older brother and overattachment to my mother. As each issue was revealed, God enabled me to heal them one by one. Today I am a much better man for it. So remember, I prayed the wrong prayer for over twenty-five years. I never received an answer because I was asking the wrong question. God could have removed my SSA in an instant, but that would not have healed my heart and soul.

Seek God's Help for Understanding and Direction

Instead of asking God to put a stop to the SSA right here, right now, pray for him to reveal to you and to your child the wounds that hide behind the SSA. Ask him for the strength, love and wisdom you need to help your child heal. Because this is a family affair, you may all grow and heal together. What was born out of broken relationships can and must be healed in healthy relationships.

If you truly desire to support your child's healing process, it is important for you to experience love and comfort from God. You cannot give what you do not experience. If you don't feel loved yourself, you won't be able to genuinely love anyone else. I encourage you to take all your confusion and painful feelings and hand them over to God. Fight, scream, cry and beg for mercy and understanding. You must seek him and his guidance with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your might. Don't stop until you have received the love, wisdom and direction you need.

You are not being punished. Your child's homosexuality is not some sort of retribution for errors that you or your spouse made. Although it may feel that way at times, this battle is not some sort of a curse or a stroke of bad luck or an omen of disaster. Ultimately you will find the good in the bad. It is through pain that we come to grips with our own humanity and weaknesses.

Sometimes difficult things happen so that the glory of God may be revealed in and through us. This may be one of those times in your life. I encourage you to rise to the occasion and to realize that you are not meant to handle this on your own. Read through the psalms. King David's anguish, pain, rage and surrender are evident throughout. Join with him and the other psalmists in calling out to the Lord. God will be close to your heart. He will not fail to hear and answer your petitions.

Pray Specific Prayers for Your Child

If you aren't sure how to pray for your child, consider some of these prayers and adapt them to your own circumstances with your son or daughter:

Build a Prayer Network for Your SSA Child

If you have access to a prayer network, request that its participants actively pray for your son or daughter. And don't be afraid to ask. Sad to say, a lot of parents are ashamed to tell anyone about their child's SSA. The more we postpone being honest, the longer it will take our families to heal. Keeping your child and his problem in the proverbial closet serves no one.

However, if it really is too difficult for you to talk to other people about your child's SSA, ask for generic prayers, such as "God please heal [child's name] heart, mind and soul. Help [child's name] to experience your love and your truth."

In the daily prayers used by devout Jews, the following prayer is said: "Heal us, O Lord, and we shall be healed. Grant a perfect healing to all our wounds." This prayer might be personalized for your SSA child.

"Heal our son, O Lord, and he shall be healed. Grant a perfect healing for all his wounds."

Creative Visualization

When you pray for your child, in your imagination, picture her healed. Use the three Ss of creative visualization as you intercede:

You may repeat the same simple sentence each time you pray Say it over and over again as you envision your child fulfilling her destiny and God's purpose. Do this daily. And as things begin to shift, create a new vision and continue to visualize the healing and fulfillment of the dream.

Father's Prayer of Blessing for Children

The father's patriarchal responsibility is to pass on God's blessing to each of his children (both male and female). Pray for your sons and daughters when they depart or on special occasions. Place your arm around their shoulders, lay your hand on their head or embrace them. In time, your children will begin to associate the warmth of your touch with God's love. They will look forward to your blessings.

A father's blessing may consist of the following elements:

JONAH'S Arthur Goldberg adds, "If you are of the Jewish faith, it is customary to recite the following blessing upon your children—regardless of age—on the eve of the Sabbath and on holy days. If you do not observe this practice, I recommend you do so by placing both hands on your child's head and repeat the following prayer."

May the Lord make you like Ephraim and Manasseh (to your sons).

May the Lord make you like Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah (to your daughters).

May the Lord bless you and keep you.

May the Lord cause his presence to shine upon you and be gracious unto you.

May the Lord turn with favor unto you and give you peace, (an adaptation of Numbers 6:24-26)

It may be that your SSA child has denied your spiritual beliefs and rejected God. One reason this may have happened is because your child is detached from you, and you are the earthly, visible manifestation of God. Parents represent the masculine and feminine nature of God. So if the child disconnects from either one of you, then he will naturally disconnect from God. Also, you can be sure that people of different faiths have been extremely punishing and judgmental toward your SSA child. "Homosexuality is the worst sin of all!" is a common statement of judgment and rejection that can be heard in far too many churches and synagogues.

If your child is from a believing home, he may have struggled for years trying to reconcile SSA with Scripture. If he does not come to understand that God loves him regardless of his SSA, he may have had to reject his faith in order to experience the smallest measure of self-worth. The personal torment about his SSA, coupled with the judgmental attitudes of many religious people, compounds his detachment from God and perhaps even his family's religious beliefs. For him, trying to be close to God feels like pain and rejection.

If you keep this in mind, you won't expect your child to readily accept your prayers of blessing. If she is very hurt, it may take a long time for her to allow you to draw closer. No matter what, be persistent and never give up. Your child needs you, even though she feels very angry and hurt. This is the underlying contradictory nature of SSA and all homosexual relationships: "I need you, but don't get too close. Please hold me in your arms. No, it hurts too much. Hey, come back, I want you. Go away. Help, I'm dying in here. Someone please rescue me."

Do Your Best and Let God Do the Rest

By now you've probably come to the conclusion that you are not God. That's not only good, it's also all too true. That's why it is important for you to do all you can to create greater intimacy with your SSA child and then release your child to God's care.

As we've seen, God rarely heals people instantaneously, so you needn't waste your time and prayers on quick fixes. The idea of immediate healing contradicts the process of human growth and development. Restoration of the heart and mind reverses the way the original wounding occurred, and all that took a while. Therefore it is important to listen to your child's story, to hear how she or he journeyed from struggler to "gay" person. Begin with the present and work your way back to the past. You cannot expect to restore over night or even in a few short months the years the locust has eaten (see Joel 2:25). It took months and years to develop SSA. It will take months and years to undo the damage.

In the meantime, be patient with yourself, with your spouse and especially with your child. Give God time to do his perfect work. Call on him for strength, wisdom, understanding and, most of all, love. Do your best. Trust him to do the rest.