How to explain coming out to your children

10 Jan

Coming out is one of those that things has to be done again, often multiple times, when you have a child. Explaining things to a child is different than with adults for obvious reasons, children are inquisitive and always seem to respond “why?” to nearly any statement you make. In contrast when you come out to adults if they ask any question at all it is generally something more along the lines of “really?”

It is best to explain to your child as early as possible that you are gay and what that means in very simple terms without dodging their questions. Children are great observers and it won’t take very long for them to notice that they may be the only child on the block with two mom’s or dads and wonder why. Something which has been found to work well is to handle the coming out process not in one sit down talk, but rather as an ongoing thing, even before they may even comprehend what it means much like the manner many parents explain adoption to children. It has been found that the earlier children know they are adopted, realize it is okay, and accept that as a normal thing, the better they handle it as they grow up, Many deal with it so well it is hardly an after thought.

Letting your child/children know you are gay in the same manner works equally well. You don’t have to give them the specifics, just let them know you are gay and that it is a natural thing. As they begin reaching school age you will want to explain to them that some kids have a mother and father while other kids have two mothers or fathers. The key to this is making sure they understand that their parents love each other which is why they are together and that they love the child as well. It is also always wise to make sure they clearly understand that just because mom might like women or dad might like men, that does not in any way mean that they will, Let them know that whomever they choose to love male or female is okay because that is who they are.

As your children get older they will have a different set of questions which probe a bit deeper. It is important to not only answer them, but answer them honestly. It is better they have the right information directly from you than get it anywhere else. They are going to probably ask about issues of physical intimacy and such things both from the heterosexual and homosexual perspective. It is natural they will be curious about both regardless of their individual sexual orientation. Although it may not be completely comfortable, and rarely is the sex talk ever totally comfortable for any parent gay or straight, just continue to tell the truth. It is a talk no parent can avoid, gay parents just have a little more ground to cover usually.

Some of the things you will want to be sure you point out and reinforce with regularity are that:

A) Homosexuality is not a deviance, gay people in love are no different than heterosexual people in love.

B) Having gay parents does not mean that they are going to be gay, only they know who they are attracted to.

C) They are loved unconditionally, and you support them.

For parents coming out when children are older things will be a little different. While it is likely the children are well aware of the above points it is a good idea to make mention of them anyway. Their questions tend to lean more towards wanting to know why perhaps you waited so long to come out, if there was something that “made” you become gay, and how it will impact them personally in their daily lives. The exchanges may at times even get a little bit hostile which is why it is very important you keep your cool. You have to remind yourself that this is likely something difficult for them and may be quite a shock to the system although in some cases your child may already have a good clue this was coming at some point.

Whether your child is young or old, even an adult child, the main thing is to always be honest and stress that you love them. Never try to force a situation in which they accept everything right away. If they want to be angry and vent, or are hurt and need time to heal and process everything, give them the time to do that and let them approach you for further discussion when they are ready. Don’t force it upon them. It may not go smooth, and it certainly isn’t always easy, but it is something they deserve to hear and you need to say. use a little common sense with a generous helping of understanding and everything should turn out just fine in the end.

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One Response to “How to explain coming out to your children”

  1. Cedar Kennan January 19, 2012 at 8:05 pm #

    Very good piece, thank you. I agree that coming out is something that needs to be done over and over again. My mom is gay, and every time I start building a new relationship with anyone, I have to decide when it becomes relevant information. It used to scare me, but now as an adult, I’m proud of the special upbringing I had.

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