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What do children of same-sex parents need to
Children with same-sex parents, like all children, need to
know that they are loved and cherished unconditionally
and that 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 goal is to normalize your
child’s experience and set the stage for his/her 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.
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 he/she 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 world view grows, they will begin to notice
differences among families. This is the time when the
details of their particular family story should start to
unfold, and it is the parents’ responsibility to provide
them information. 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 experts in child development
that can help you prepare to tell your family story. It is
important to remember that this 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
its circumstances and how others perceive the family.
If you as a parent feel shame, you will project shame
and your child(ren) will certainly be influenced by these
feelings. If pride and confidence are presented, that is
what your child(ren) will experience and communicate to
What does age-appropriate mean?
Maturation is a lifelong process, which evolves and is
polished over one’s life cycle. 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
Ages 3-6: The world of the very young child is restricted
and he/she is primarily interested in getting his/
her needs met: feed me, change me, and hold me.
These needs include being nurtured, nourished, and
protected. This is the time to set the stage for your later
explanations regarding your family story. Children will
not understand necessarily the intricacies of what you
say at this developmental stage but will respond to your
tone and expression as you talk about your family’s
Ages 7-11: Children in this age range have 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 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 +: Young adolescents are greatly impacted by
peer opinions and 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 honed the skills to tackle whatever he/she
might encounter regarding inquiries or feelings about
his/her parents. At this juncture he/she also will feel safe
enough to talk about any issues or concerns regarding
his/her family with you and others.
Family is family, though the rearing parents may not be
the contributing genetic or biological providers. The look
of family has changed and will continue to change with
the passing of time. What all parents need to respect is
that being open and ‘out’ with children is the surest path
to a healthy and united family unit.