CHILDREN’S BIBLIOGRAPHYBibliography.htmlshapeimage_4_link_0
ABOUT MEAbout_Me.htmlshapeimage_5_link_0
BOOK ORDERBooks.htmlshapeimage_6_link_0
CONTACT contact.htmlshapeimage_7_link_0
PROFESSIONAL SERVICESProfessional_Services.htmlshapeimage_8_link_0
CHILDREN’S BIBLIOGRAPHYBibliography.htmlBibliography.htmlshapeimage_12_link_0
ABOUT MEAbout_Me.htmlAbout_Me.htmlshapeimage_13_link_0
BOOK ORDERBooks.htmlBooks.htmlshapeimage_14_link_0
CONTACT contact.htmlcontact.htmlshapeimage_15_link_0
PROFESSIONAL SERVICESProfessional_Services.htmlProfessional_Services.htmlshapeimage_16_link_0

Talking to Children About Their Gay and Lesbian Parents.

by Elaine R. Gordon, Ph.D.

What do children of same-sex parents need to know?

First and foremost children with same-sexed parents need to know what every child needs to know. That is that they are loved and cherished   and you as their parents will nurture, guide, and protect them. It is through open and honest dialogue among family members that healthy relationships and bonds are created. The collective goal is to normalize your child's experience and set the stage for their evolving understanding of what it means to belong.  Parents provide the context for children to accept and value their nontraditional circumstances and grasp that there is no one definition of family and that families come in all types of configurations.

Why children ask questions?

It does not take much for even a very young child to notice that their family looks a bit different from other families. All children desire and deserve to be loved. When a child feel secure in that love, their questions, wants, wishes, and curiosities are just efforts to try and understand their personal world in the larger context. It in no way means they are dissatisfied, damaged, or emotionally troubled. In fact, the research done to date states that  those children who have same-sex parents are no different than those children that have heterosexual parents. These  children are thriving and similar in their emotional adjustment and cognitive abilities as their traditional family counterparts.

Some children are born curious and ask questions incessantly, while others take the world in stride and accept what is. This does not in any way reflect their sense of self or comfort level with their family circumstance but has more to do with their individual personality styles and innate traits.

When do I share this information with my children?

The younger the information is shared the better. It is obvious, even to a very young child that she/he has two moms or two dads and what that means to them will change over time. Early on they will accept their parents as a matter of fact with no need to question or probe. But as their worldview grows they will begin to notice differences among families in that they have two moms or two dads when so many of their friends have one of each. This is the time when the details of their particular family story should start to unfold and it is the parent’s responsibility to do so. This unfolding needs to be done in  an age-appropriate way that will ultimately lead to understanding and acceptance of the facts that there are all kinds of family configurations and no one family type is better than another.

What do I say to my child?

There is no script outlining exactly what to say, but there are some basic guidelines that have proven to be helpful to other families. Telling the truth is a basic tenet in disclosing the information but how this truth is shared will depend on your personal style of communication. There are books, films, and child development experts that can help you prepare for your telling of your family story. It is important to remember that this telling is not a one-time event but the start of an ongoing dialogue between you and your child(ren). Your family story needs to be told and retold over the course of your child's lifetime adding more and more information along the way. It is the parent that sets the stage for how the family feels about their circumstances and how others perceive you. If you feel shame you will project shame and your child(ren) will certainly be influenced by these feelings. If pride and confidence is presented that is what your child(ren)  will experience and communicate to others.

What does age-appropriate mean?

Maturation is a life long process, which evolves and is polished over one’s life cycle. Children start off confined  to a small and narrow world, one that grows and expands over time giving breath and depth to greater awareness. What a child takes in and processes when very young is quite different than what is understood as an adolescent or adult. Talking to your child involves an understanding of what is considered age appropriate.

Ages 3-6: The world of the very young child is restricted and they are primarily interested in getting their needs met…feed me, change me, and hold me. These needs include being a nurtured, nourished, and protected. This is the time to set the stage for your later explanations regarding your family story. Children will not necessarily understand the intricacies of what you say at this developmental stage but will respond to your tone and affect as you talk about your family's genesis.

Ages 7-11; Children in this age range had evolved an understanding of the reproductive basics. They know it takes an egg and a sperm to make a baby and that only females carry a pregnancies. Their friends might be asking them why they have two moms or two dads. These children need to be able to handle these questions with dignity and confidence and not falter in their responses. Their worldview has expanded and they have a need to understand their place in relationship to others and it is with the parent’s help they will be able to do so.

Ages 12 +: The young adolescent is greatly impacted by peer opinions and their relationships with friends. They crave fitting in and being accepted by their contemporaries.  Adolescents continually struggle as they bounce between demanding the independence that comes with adulthood and the dependency they still feel as a child. If parents have done an adequate job up until this time, a child will have the will have honed the tools to tackle whatever they might encounter regarding inquiries or feelings about their parents. At this juncture they will also feel safe enough to talk about any issues or concerns regarding their family with you and others.

Family is family although its’ look has change and will continue to change with the passing of time. For now we are all born into this world through the merging and egg and sperm and developing in the womb of a woman. However, the rearing parents may not be the contributing genetic or biological providers. What all parents need to respect is that being open and ‘out’ with our children is the surest path to a healthy and united family unit.