This article was published on August 19th, 2021
“Daddy, where is Mommy?” Imagine getting that question, out of the blue, from your kid one morning over breakfast. Where do you even start?
Well, from the beginning and with absolute honesty.
Kids are a curious bunch. They ask questions, lots of them. They also drill down on your answer using the “WHY” loop till you start pulling out hairs.
Why this, why that, why why why.
According to a U.S. Census Bureau survey of 2019, there are roughly 980,000 same-sex couple households. Of those, 27% live with children.
Advances in reproductive health, changes on the legal front, and changing opinions on same-sex parenthood have made it easier for gays to start families.
Indeed, research has shown that children with two moms or two dads fare just as well as those from heterosexual parents.
In some instances, kids from same-sex families do better in terms of emotional adjustment, gender identity, and learning. They are better connected at school, talk openly about emotions, and tend to be more compassionate, resilient, and tolerant.
So, how do you effectively answer your kids’ questions around gay relationships and families and help them cope with having a different family arrangement? We offer some pointers today.
Whether it’s lyrics from a popular song, a scene from an animated movie, or just a breakfast conversation, you can always find opportunities to help your kids understand your unusual family.
Be candid and open. Encourage your children to ask questions or ask them some of your own. For example, when a queer character appears on TV, ask them questions like: “What do you think about that?”
Create an environment of openness, honesty, respect, trust, kindness, and support to explore their feelings.
Regardless of the opportunity or topic, always remind them that you love them for the whole of who they are.
If they still feel uncomfortable talking to you, point them to an adult they can talk to if they need to.
Remember, it’s also okay to pause the conversation and pick it up at a later, more appropriate time. You can even tell the child to remind you. This is especially helpful when confronted with a question you’re not entirely sure how to answer.
Let the kid know, exactly, how they came to be and how much they are wanted. Keeping secrets about their origins burdens them with the need to protect you with their silence.
However, if you model honesty and how to be comfortable being gay, your kids pick up the cues.
Kids learn from how you behave, not so much what you say. It’s your job as a parent to model behaviors that empower them to be who they are.
Always keep an ongoing, age-appropriate conversation about your unusual family structure.
Most kids probably assume that all families have one mommy and one daddy. But that’s far from reality.
Families are complicated. Some have a single parent, others have adopted kids or a merger from previously divorced parents.
If they wonder why they have two daddies, emphasize universal values of love instead of complex legal or scientific arguments.
For instance, you can answer the “Where is Mommy” question by saying something like: “You see, your daddies love each other so much, and we love you deeply too. That’s why we decided to start a family,” or something along those lines.
The same goes for all families.
Whether it’s a single mom-led family, two dads, single dad, or even raised by wolves in the wilderness – simply explain that all families are different, and that’s what matters is they are loved in this family.
Your children have to tell their peers or schoolmates about your unusual family at some point. They have to confront the fact that they have two dads – gay dads.
Give them the opportunity and room to decide how and when, especially as they get to the critical middle school phase.
Just as you’d not want someone to out you, don’t “out” your kids. How they handle the decision is up to them and comes down to how you’ve modeled behaviors combined with their sense of risks and rewards.
Offer them as much support as you can.
“If you love men, can you really love me as your daughter?”
Girls from same-sex male couples have a more challenging time understanding and integrating the concept of love and relationships.
You must pay special attention and keep modeling loving habits. Keep an open conversation and let them know you’re always there to talk if they need to.
Emphasize that just because you love another man doesn’t mean you can’t love them. Again, what you do here matters more than what you say.
Remember the first time you met another gay person? Wasn’t it exciting and freeing at the same time?
Finally, here was a person who understood exactly how you felt and what it meant to be gay.
It’s the same feeling for you and your kids when you meet other same-sex-led families. Your children easily relate with the other kids without having to translate anything.
Find nearby families online, meet up at the park or on the playground. You can even consider moving to a neighborhood with more queer families.
Love, respect, kindness, compassion, being who you truly are; emphasize these universal concepts above all else.
Your family structure won’t matter to your kid’s growth and well-being in the grand scheme of things.
However, talking about and modeling these universal values empowers them to live fully authentic lives.
Tell them that you can’t judge a book by its cover. So, whether a person comes from a family with two dads or two moms or was adopted, what really matters is what’s inside – their values.
Children will ask some pretty difficult questions as they grow.
First, answer them as honestly as you can.
Second, don’t get weird about the questions or change the subject because “they are too young to understand.”
Third, don’t ever go into more details than you need to.
In explaining your family, for instance, state the obvious: “While it’s a woman who gives birth to a baby, your Daddy(-ies) or Mommy(-ies) raise you.”
It’s the same way you’d explain adoption. Emphasize that everyone ends up with the right (and loving) parents for them.
Luckily, it does get better. Changing attitudes towards gay families makes your job easier as a gay parent.
It’s enormously comforting, for example, that same-sex marriage is legally recognized and widely accepted. Popular media is also stepping up and portraying gay families in movies and TV shows.
For instance, you can’t deny the effect Mitchell and Cameron on Modern Family have had in shaping the perception of gay families. They have demonstrated that these families go through all the ups and downs heterosexual families go through.
Seeing gay celebrities and families on TV also makes it a little easier now. Indeed, we’ve gotten to a place where some people don’t see anything unusual or even interesting about gay families! Progress.