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Your Kid is not Your Crutch

I recently read about a concept called "Ring Theory" which was developed by psychologist, Susan Silk, and her fried Barry Goldman. When Susan was suffering from breast cancer, she found that people didn't really know how to comfort her and often expected her to comfort them which she found frustrating.


Ring Theory works like this. Picture concentric circles around a center point. The person at the center of all the rings is the one with the diagnosis or the crisis. The people in the next ring out would be the spouse, partner, children or parents of the person in the center. The people in the next ring would be close friends and extended family. After that would be work colleagues or school friends; people in the center person's wider orbit. On the widest ring would be the rubberneckers.


The person in the center gets to complain and cry and seek comfort from everybody else at all times because they are the one who actually has the problem. If you are not in the center, and are on a ring, your job is to "comfort in" and "dump out". This means you only get to complain to people who occupy a ring further from the center than you do. You do not get to ask the person who is ill or grieving to comfort you. That is not cool.


I thought the concept of the Ring Theory might also be helpful to use when you have a child on the LGBTQ+ spectrum or you know someone who does.


Maybe you are totally fine. Maybe you are freaking out. Maybe deep down you know you will be fine but you need to freak out first. When John first came out to me I was feeling all the feels and had soooooo many questions. Like to the point where he needed to remind me that there were other things that he would like to talk about besides his being gay. He didn't want to be my personal expert. He needed to remind me that he was a 17 year-old kid who was an expert on nothing and had only his own experience to go by. And of course that he was still figuring shit out.


I was burdening him with my questions, and even though he was good-natured about it, it wasn't his job to educate me or to support me in the context of his coming out. So in my Ring Theory analogy, John is at the center of the ring. My job as his parent, in the next ring, is to support him however he needs. To hold space for whatever emotions he needs to process and obtain information and resources for him if he wants them and to be a sounding board for him. To "support in".


If I have fears or questions or I just don't feel I can cope, I need to "seek out". To seek support from people in the next circle out from me- close friends, or further out like doctors or therapists. There are a bunch of legitimate organizations out there with lots of helpful info. And of course, Google.


It is not the responsibility of my child to help me figure my shit out. And it's not your kid's either. They are having a hard enough time figuring their own shit out and you are the adult in the room.


Go get help by all means, but don't get it from your kid. If you want me to be your outer ring and help you figure your shit out, I am here for you.


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