Explaining Same-Sex Families to Kids, by Scott Williams
According to Stats Canada’s 2011 National Household Survey, there were 64,575 same-sex couple families in Canada in 2011 (up 42.4% from 2006). That same year, 9,600 children were living with same-sex parents. Here are some tips for answering questions and having conversations with kids.
- Keep it Simple
Answer the questions the kids are asking and don’t go into more detail than they are asking for. In most cases the best answer is “love is love”. Sometimes a woman falls in love with a woman, sometimes a man falls in love with a man, and sometimes a woman falls in love with a man. Sometimes, a child will think about your answer and have follow up questions later—even months later. It’s OK to wait for them to think about what you said and get back to you.
- Be Curious and Open
Invite your child to tell you more about what they know. Listen to their story before jumping in with your own thoughts or information. Ask them what they have noticed or what they think.
- Keep it Age-Appropriate
It is important to keep the information at the developmental level for your child. Parents are in the best position to know what their child will understand. Young children are probably not asking about the mechanics of sexuality. You can keep the discussion about love and relationships and leave the “sex talk” for when the child is ready (SHORE Centre has some great resources for parents and caregivers for talking with kids about sex and sexual health. Visit their website here).
In a CNN article from 2015, Dr. Nanette Gartrell offered this language as an example: “There are many different kinds of families. Some kids grow up with a mom and dad, and some with two moms or two dads. Others are raised by a mom or a dad or another relative… Love between two men or two women is just the same as love between a man and a woman, and… as an adult, you can marry the person you love.”
- Be Honest
The numbers don’t lie. Most children will have opposite-sex parents. It’s OK to acknowledge that and explain that only some children will have same-sex parents.
- Use Comparisons and Examples
You can compare a same-sex relationship with your own relationship. For example, “Mario’s two dads fell in love just like your mom and I did.” You can also use examples if your extended family has members who are in same-sex relationships or you have family friends in same-sex relationships. For example, “Mario’s two dads are just like Uncle Jeff and Uncle Ryan.”
- Don’t Make Assumptions About Your Child
Your child may grow up to have a different sexual orientation than yours. You don’t have to hint to them that they may grow up to be gay but you should use language that will make it clear that it’s OK.
- Make Your Home an Accepting Environment
Let your child know that your home is a place where all people are accepted. Differences are good. Diversity makes our society stronger, and understanding and accepting diversity starts in your home. Remember that these discussions are not about issues but rather about people and relationships. If you keep the conversations about having respect for all people and their lifestyles you will help your child accept those who might be different than they are.
- Use Storytelling
There are lots of great children’s books about same-sex families. Books like the below can help you to start a conversation. Reading them before the questions come can also help with making your home an accepting environment.