After the outing of NBA center Jason Collins in April 2013, to my surprise one of my former players I was coaching a while ago also outed himself the other week. It was surprising to me because I never perceived him as being gay since he was always very much liked by the girls coming to our home games and cheering for us.

Teens and tweens are different these days. If you happen to be a parent, you probably already know this. However, what may be surprising to you is just how much kids today know about themselves even at an early age, while at the same still struggling to discover who they are as a complete person.

One way in which today’s youth is different from prior generations is how clear many are about their sexuality at a very young age.

According to a 1988 article published in Journal of Adolescent Health Care, homosexuality has four developmental stages. First there is the stage of sensitization. That is followed by identity confusion and then identity assumption. The final stage is commitment. A teen or tween may not only realize that they’re different in some way from their friends, but some may know exactly how they are different. Your daughter or son may know her or she is homosexual.

Advice for Parents of Homosexual Teens and Twens
If your teen or tween is homosexual, one thing that may be a cause of concern is how he or she will fare socially, not only in general and in school but also how to cope with such extracurricular activities like team sports.

Unfortunately, being different, does tend to expose young people to being negatively singled out. Lesbian and gay youth, for example, are often bullied at school. However, as a parent there are things you can do to help minimize the odds that your homosexual child will be ostracized or bullied.

Get Educated
Find out what identifying as a homosexual means to your child. It may have a very different meaning for him or her than it does for you. For example, during the teen years, there is a period where it is a very normal and common occurrence for a girl to have a crush on another girl. It’s all part of normal sexual development. Make sure you clearly understand the issues faced by homosexual teens so that you don’t argue with your children based on only your beliefs. This is exactly what the outside world does and can cause your child to doubt themselves and also make them feel they aren’t supported at home. It is during this stage that young people are very susceptible to developing those negative voices inside their heads that can destroy their sense of self-esteem. This in turn can greatly affect their athletic, social and academic performance.

Help Educate
Once you have become knowledgeable about the issues facing homosexual teens and tweens, you can work to help educate others for the benefit of your child as well as homosexual youth in general. You can help educate adults who are in your child’s life and might not be as familiar with homosexual youth issues as you are. This can help to empower your child, along with other homosexual youth going through similar developmental and identity issues. Keep in mind that 10% at least of the U.S. population is LGBT (short for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender). There are many other tweens and teens going through the same issues as your child, and they can benefit from the education that you provide to others to help them understand better the issues that homosexual youth face.

Offer Positive Messages
Frequently parents experience some disappointment when they find out that their children are homosexual. The main reason for this is many parents fear that their child will be hurt due to their sexual identity. There is also a grieving process that parents may go through when they realize their children are not going to be whom they thought they would be. Once these emotions have been processed and dealt with, it is very important to begin sending positive messages to your son or daughter about who they are. Remember, your child is still that same smart, athletic and lovable boy or girl that he or she was before you’ve been informed you about being homosexual. Remind your child of how proud you are. Many young homosexuals experience severe forms of abuse at home, which can lead to depression, suicide and other forms of negative behavior. Having a lesbian daughter doesn’t mean your job of being a loving and supportive parent is over. There is just an additional issue that your daughter might need a strong advocate for.

Don’t Carry a Chip on your Shoulder
Remember that not every negative thing said to your child will be because of her being a lesbian. Your child will still handle its academic performance and sportsmanship. Help your children to develop positive behaviors so that they can socialize well with others and be a good role model and good sport. Make sure your child doesn’t use the fact of being of being different to get special favors, such as getting more playing time or being first string while playing sports when he or she doesn’t practice enough or isn’t a good team player.

It’s never easy having a teen or tween child that has issues. Whether it is a physical challenge, learning problem, anxiety or eating disorder, these issues can be managed, and parents do find ways to help get their children integrated into regular activities despite the challenges. Dealing with your child’s sexuality isn’t any different.