How to Tell a Child About Same‐Gender Relationships
In an ideal perfect world, there might be minimal distinctions made between opposite or same gender relationships. However, in much of the world, there are complex social, political and religion components that complicate the situation. What to tell a child about a same gender relationship is going to depend upon the age, and to a degree, the maturity level of the child to determine and guide the degree of disclosure.
Keep it simple.Provide honest, factual answers, and keep it as short as is reasonable. This way, you don't overwhelm the child with information, and they have the chance to ask questions if they're curious.
Use a neutral or positive and laid-back tone.Treat it the same way you'd treat questions like "Why do people get married?" or "Why do people have crushes?" This sends the message that same-gender couples are normal, and nothing to get worked up about.
Focus on the relationship, not the sex.Frame a relationship as one of responsibilities, personalities, identities and mutual support and caring—ordinary parts of life. Don't discuss LGBT+ sex in a way you wouldn't discuss heterosexual sex.
- If your child is curious about sex, then give them honest and accurate information. If they turn out not to be straight, they may have a same-sex relationship, and you'll want them to get information from a reliable source.
Give credible, compassionate answers.The most credible answers to any child about sexual orientation are answers that are solely informative based on credible information, and are without any agenda, political affiliation or religious dogma. Keep out rhetoric or judgment.
- Look to credible sources, such as the American Psychological Association (APA), when looking for facts.
Consider what they are actually asking.Most kids are only looking to understand the basics, and if they want greater detail in an area, they'll ask. Simple is usually the best. They are two people who love and care about each other.
- More inquisitive or older children may be interested in marriage, taxes, sex, and other issues. Young children probably aren't ready for this.
Making an Accepting Environment
If you want to teach your child to accept diversity and treat LGBT people kindly, you can bring them up in an environment that is laid-back and accepting towards LGBT people.
Accept differences in others.This includes LGBT people, but also disabled people, people of color, religious minorities, and more. If you teach children that diversity is natural and nothing to be afraid of, they are more likely to respond well when they meet someone who is not like them.
- Treat groups of minorities the same way you'd treat anyone else. That can say a lot to a child who is observing.
- Answer questions calmly to reinforce that this is typical. "Yes, I see those women holding hands. Maybe they're in love."
Consider allowing LGBT+ media into the house as well as heterosexual media.Your child has seen the princess kiss the prince again and again, so you may want to let them see a princess kiss another princess once or twice (or kiss no one at all).
- Screen content to make sure that it delivers an appropriate message and fits your child's age and maturity level. For example, a mature 16-year-old might be ready forOrange is the New Black,while a 6-year-old would be better off with books about the boy with two daddies or the girl who has a crush on another girl.
Demolish negative biases.Once kids reach a certain age, they have probably already heard the phrase, "oh that's so gay". They have already heard epithets, slang terms, been introduced to stereotypes regarding nearly every single demographic group, including LGBT persons. This is a time to impart factual, carefully selected and credible information.
- Encourage them to be empathetic towards people of other orientations, and to consider their feelings.
Discuss the spectrum of orientations.Explain that not all men are attracted to women (and vice versa). There is a wide variety of orientations, including gay, lesbian, bisexual, asexual, and aromantic.
Don't make assumptions about your child's orientation.If you assume that your child will be straight, this puts pressure on them, and may make them afraid to be honest with themselves or you. Instead, make it clear that you love them and that this love won't change based on sexual orientation.
- Trust them to figure out their orientation. Be supportive and accepting, whatever they realize about themselves.
- For example, instead of asking "Have you noticed any cute boys yet?" ask "Do you have a crush on anybody?" This way, if your child actually likes girls, they'll feel that they can tell you.
Keep explanations simple for young children.Just as a man and woman fall in love with each other, two men or two women might fall in love. Reduce fear or uncertainty by focusing on how same-gender relationships are very similar to mixed-gender relationships.
- Leave out mentions of gender when discussing relationships in general. For example, instead of "When a man and woman fall in love," say "When two people fall in love." This helps lay the groundwork for understanding that love is not only limited to heterosexuals.
Go into greater detail for older children and preteens.They may have noticed discrimination or the erasure of same-gender couples, and you might want to explain as much of that as they are ready for. They might have questions about how sex works, and you can help them find answers.
- Emphasize the importance of respect for people who are different. Many kids start developing serious crushes around their preteen years, so your child might have LGBT peers at school.
Prepare teens for the realities of adult life.Discrimination will happen, and they'll have to choose how to respond when they witness it. They'll meet people whose identities are new to them, so help them feel comfortable with that idea and not conflate something new with something dangerous. If you instill good values in them, they should grow up to be accepting, compassionate adults.
- Talk to them about how to handle bigotry. These things can be sudden and alarming, so it helps if they already have an idea in their head of what they would do.
QuestionI'm in 5th grade, and all the boys in my grade use "gay" as an insult. I hate it because I'm bisexual, and my sister is lesbian. What should I do next time it happens?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerIf you want to stand up for yourself, you don't have to say anything about yourself or your sister, just say, "That's really offensive, there's nothing wrong with being gay." If you don't want to do this, next time you hear it, just tell the teacher or another adult what's going on.Thanks!
- Telling a child about a same-gender couple isnotgoing to make them become gay. Science, biology, and genetic research have concluded that orientation is not correlated to any environmental factors.
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