This request recently came to us from a straight spouse:
“Could someone do a blog post with suggestions on how to tell children that one parent is gay? My wife is gay and she’s moving in with her girlfriend soon with my children. I fully support my kids’ mom in being who she really is and I adore her girlfriend. She is avoiding telling our girls but it has to happen soon. Thanks for the awesome blog.”
Amie: I’m not (yet) a parent but my advice would be to have the conversation with your kids sooner rather than later. If you have a good relationship with your ex-wife maybe the two of you can plan the talk together. Keep it short, simple, and casual. It can be as little as “Some girls fall in love boys, and some girls fall in love with other girls. Mommy and ___ are two girls in love.” Be honest without getting into too many personal details (no kid wants to know the intimate details of their parents’ relationships), keep the conversation age appropriate, and if your kids have questions (which they might) be prepared to answer them openly and honestly.
My dad (finally) came out to me on the phone when I was 21 and it was a pretty uneventful conversation as I had known/suspected he was gay for years. I was angry that he had not been honest with me sooner, but it was a relief to finally have it out in the open. I think Seth Taylor did a great job coming out to his 10 year old daughter and I would suggest the Families Like Mine book and website as a great resource. There is an entire column devoted to coming out to kids – maybe that helps.
In the end honesty, understanding and a little patience will go a long way. Your kids deserve to know the truth so don’t put it off too long. Especially if they are going to be living with their mom and her girlfriend.
I agree with Amie. Kids need to know what’s going on behind the scenes, especially before the big move! Regardless of their ages, some discussion is necessary. I’d advise you to have a few resources in place ahead of time should the kids need them: books (I can recommend only a few, and it depends on their ages), the names / numbers of reputable psychologists, and even others who may be in a similar situation that they can meet or talk to. Also, contact your local PFLAG chapter and they can assist you, and perhaps the Straight Spouse Network.
My dad came out when I was 15, my brother Mark was 13, and my brother Kevin was nine. We had different feelings and reactions. I wish I’d known someone else with a gay mom or dad; I wish that when I’d gone to the bookstore that there had been something there for me besides Heather Has Two Mommies; I wish that I’d felt my friends would understand.
I’m grateful my parents didn’t lie to us; initially Dad wanted to keep the secret. My mom, however, insisted we be told the truth before we found out from someone else. I’m relieved they agreed on this route because if I’d have been lied to, it would’ve made things worse. Dealing with divorce is one thing. Add that to suddenly finding out one of your parents is gay…to only realize years later that it was hidden from you? The first two are hard enough, but add that third ingredient and I believe you have a recipe for resentment and anger, not to mention trust issues.
Bottom line? Tell the kids now. Don’t put it off. If you’d like to share their ages, perhaps we can better assist you?
P.S. Here’s a short video I did with my seven-year-old daughter talking about the word “gay,” my gay dad, who is obviously her gay grandfather (but she calls him “PopPop” as you’ll hear if you watch). It was completely unplanned, unscripted. Talking to the kids about it can be easy or not, but remember they’ll take their cues from YOU.
Thank you for asking us, and we hope you find this information helpful.
For the rest of you reading, please feel free to add tips or advice of your own in the comments!