When Your Adult Child Makes Sexual Choices You Disagree With

by | Feb 28, 2024

Mom, I’m gay. I’m attracted to other men, and I want to start dating them.

Dad, my girlfriend and I are moving in together. 

I no longer want to go by my given name. Please call me Cody and use male pronouns when referring to me.

These revelations from teenagers or adult children pierce the heart of a parent. Whether by identifying as LGBTQ+ or openly rejecting God’s expressed design for sexuality, as a parent, you can’t help but feel that your son or daughter’s decisions have uprooted your hopes and prayers. Barely a week goes by that I don’t talk with a parent in this situation. Grief, worry, guilt, and confusion ensue. How should you respond? How can you help your son or daughter? Is any of this your fault? How do you love God and love your child at the same time? 

While this topic is far too complicated to comprehensively address in a single blog post, here is a framework of four things that can guide you as you walk the difficult journey of parenting a teen or young adult through sexual sin and brokenness.


Recognize the real issue is spiritual.

What you believe about God determines what you believe about sex and sexuality. Why have we seen LGBTQ+ identification and cohabitation rates more than double in the last 15 years? Why is pornography use accepted as normal and perhaps even educational?

While there are many variables that have contributed to the decline of sexual morality in our culture, the greatest culprit is our departure from Judeo-Christian ethics. Western countries like America may not have been Christian nations, but their cultural ethics were once rooted in the belief in a Creator to which we are accountable.

In more recent years the western world has eagerly embraced the secular faith of humanism. Success is about “living your best life.” We avoid discomfort and chase after what the heart desires. We have changed our beliefs about sex because we have changed what we believe about God. Your children, regardless of what you may have taught them, have been inundated with messages about sexual identity, freedom of expression, and the need to discover their true selves.

Remember that your child’s relationship with God is far more important than his or her sexual choices. Steer your conversations in that direction. Don’t make it an issue about your feelings and expectations. Instead, remember that the greater issue is your child’s choice to either follow or reject God.

We fight spiritual battles with spiritual weapons. Pray for your child. Consider fasting. And live a life of integrity that clearly demonstrates the love and power of Christ in your own story.


Reach out for help.

Don’t try to wade through this journey alone. Sexual issues are complicated. Parenting is messy. Navigating your relationship with your child can be disorienting. You may feel like the only parent in your church or community who has a child struggling with sexual or identity issues. You are not! It is critical for you to reach out for help. You are likely to act out of your own disappointment, anger, and shame without the support, prayer, and advice of godly friends and counselors.

As you reach out for help, consider a few different types of support:

  • Trusted friends can act as good sounding boards, prayer partners, and sources of encouragement but may not have the knowledge or experience to give you specific advice.
  • Draw on resources such as books, ministries, and support groups that can provide a biblical framework for understanding the issues your child may be facing.
  • Seek out Christian mental health professionals for guidance. Every situation is unique. Be aware that beneath sexual confusion, there may also be deeply rooted identity questions and mental health struggles like depression, anxiety, and suicidality. If your child is a teenager and still living in your home, consider making some form of counseling a requirement.


Seek to influence, not control.

As a parent of a young child, you trained yourself to be attentive to their every need. Food, comfort, sleep, affection. As your child grew, you became aware of needs you couldn’t meet–acceptance from peers, confidence, wisdom, and a thriving relationship with God. There is a significant difference between parenting a 14-year-old and a 22-year-old in terms of both the child’s brain development and the amount of responsibility you carry. With younger teenagers, it is right and appropriate to set boundaries and consequences for behavior. As your child emerges into adulthood, parents move from responsibility to influence.

The most difficult thing about parenting an adult child is knowing you cannot give your child what they need most. You have to sit by and watch as the one you love brushes aside wisdom and chooses to reject God or make unwise choices.

While you cannot make decisions for your child, you are still and will always be an important person in his or her life. You don’t have control, but you still have influence. Your child cares what you think, continues to observe your life, and is hard-wired to be attuned to your love.

Your influence is accentuated when you don’t use it to manipulate or coerce. Accept that your child is an adult with the freedom to make his or her own decisions. Now is not the time to punish or withhold love, but to release your child to navigate their own relationship with God. Like the father to the Prodigal Son, don’t frantically chase, trying to convince, but stand lovingly and prayerfully waiting for the story to play out.

Your influence is most powerful when you stay in relationship with your child, not when you withhold love.


Stand in truth but walk with humility.

Perhaps the greatest challenge is knowing how to stand in your biblical convictions while still expressing love. This balance plays out in a hundred practical decisions–whether or not to attend a wedding, allow your child’s partner to share a bedroom in your home, or invite your child’s live-in partner to be part of the family photo.

These can be gut-wrenching decisions as you weigh the importance of building relationships with biblical truth.

  • State your biblical convictions, don’t repeat them over and over again. It is good to have one or two clear conversations about your child’s choices and your concerns. After that, they know where you stand. You don’t need to keep reminding them.
  • Don’t violate your conscience. Both in Romans and in I Corinthians, we read that God may convict each of us differently on the application of biblical principles to real life situations (like the ones expressed above). You need to ask God very clearly where He gives you a line of conscience and then respond with obedience. Your spouse or others in your life may have different convictions on these difficult decisions. Honor your conscience, and leave room for theirs.
  • Show your child your weakness. Influencing your adult child doesn’t mean projecting a facade of strength and confidence. Humility is far more impactful than a show of perfection. Let your child know about your own struggles, failures, and questions. When appropriate, apologize for times when you have not responded well and for regrets you have in parenting. The Gospel is not expressed through perfect people, but through humble, repentant sinners who know the power of God’s grace.


I am so sorry for the pain you are walking through on this journey of parenting! While there are no easy answers, remember that you are not alone. Because we tend to keep the personal lives of our adult children private, there are likely other families around you who are silently navigating similar waters. Ultimately, remember that God is with you. He knows what it feels like to be a broken-hearted parent, and He hears your prayers!


Blog post: Should I go to a Gay Wedding?

Java with Juli: #486 Teaching Sexual Discipleship: How to Walk in Truth and Love with LGBTQ+ Kids

Resource: Walk with Them