“Can you suggest some tips for parents coming out to children?”

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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.

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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.

Erin:

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!

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Comments

  1. Hi thank you for the insightful article.
    I am a 27 year old woman in a relationship with a woman for 3 years now and she has a 20 year old son that we think should know about us, but is to scared; scared because as parents we tend to ask questions and answers them ourselves, like anger resentment, hurtful burst outs, etc. My partner is still married lawfully to his father, but she lives with me and my daughter of 7 they adore each other and me and her son get along fairly. He has heard a lot of rumors as our communities are very small and arguments between his parents regarding us, but we never stated it clear to him what’s really going on. Like I said we think that it’s time, but the fear puts us off. His father knows my partner stated it to him clearly, but also just recently although he always knew he just wanted to hear it from her personally. Yes we both was unthoughtful regarding how we handled the matter with his father and him. Please help your advice will be appreciated so much.
    Thank you and regards

  2. Hi guys, I know this is an old thread but thought it was worth a shot. I’m dating someone who has struggled to come to terms with the fact she is dating another woman. Over the past year she has gradually became to accept it more. Her biggest issue to her children. She has three kids 18.21.23. I have felt at times they must suspect as they know I am gay but other times there have been open statements that suggest they may not be ok with someone like there mum being in a gay relationship which put her off even considering telling them. Our relationship could be so much more if we were open and didn’t have to hide and I am trying to understand everyone’s feelings in this. Her oldest made a comment regarding how they don’t understand how people can change later in life and take another direction. I find this a backwards way of thinking but it’s to be expected in a small place. Can anyone provide any insight or give me some advice on how to talk to my partner?

  3. Anonymous says:

    Thank you so much! I’m a single parent with a 4 year old…The other parent always knew I was bi…I was so so so so glad that I made it known to the other parent that I had an attraction to my own sex. Many years later, I make it very well known to my child that I’m a little different and some details about it. I couldn’t imagine having to keep it a secret from them both.

  4. Thank you so much for the advice! We are going to tell our four kids (10,8,6,5) tomorrow and I’m very nervous. Your tips will definitely help wit the conversation .

    • Good luck Jason! Let us know if there is anything else we can do to help and hope it all goes well. 🙂 *Hugs* Amie.

  5. Joel Diamond says:

    Hi! I´m a French canadian and I´m living it right now. I have four kids 5, 7, 11, and 13 years old. I came out to my wife 4 months ago. We decided to tell my kids just at the end of their school year which is a month and a half ago. We took my two oldest apart and we told them like we talk to an adult. We spent an hour with them. After we talked to the two others. Of course, we went through a crisis but we can not imagine their power to understand the situation. It´s all depend how the adults reacts to the situation. I fell in love with a Mexican guy, my wife a few weeks after with a French canadian. We have all met together. My boyfriend who had come here for 6 months to learn English will be back in Mexico soon because of the immigration and he will find a way to come back here forever. My kids love him. Yesterday, all together we went to a gay pride parade. My oldest son was wearing a pin that says: ´Í love my gay dad´´ Him and my 11 years old; daughter challenge themselves to wear their pin all summer long and even at school. I´m speechless. It is harder for kids to learn about the separation than the homosexuality. Homophobia doesn´t exist with kids. They learn that when they grow up. If anyone can communicate with them letting them know that both parents will always love them with this unconditional love, kids can understand way more than we can even expect. We need to learn from them. So yes, if it is important to tell them the truth as soon as possible, I reply without any kind of hesitations, YES!. And think that those kids will grow without knowing any forms of judgment towards the homosexuality. For them, it won´t even be a question of accepting or not, it will be as normal as it should be. Walking with my 11 years old daughter after I told her that I was gay, I told her that I was scared of telling her that I am gay. She said :´´Why you were scared?´´. I said: ´´I thought you could have been angry, really mad at me´´. Her answer was:´´Why would I be mad at you´´. That says it all. For her, it was not a question of accepting me or not, there was just no reason to be mad at me. She couldn´t even understand why I was asking the question. My tips are: 1 – Tell them the truth 2 – Adjust your speech to their age 3 – Make sure to be emotionally ok to make sure not transmitting your fears to them 4 – Always be there for all their questions and be as honest as possible and tell them why you didn´t accept your homosexuality before 5 – And tell them that they will now get the best from you because you will now be happier and in peace with yourself 6 – Tell them how much you love them again and again and again.

  6. I totally agree – information sooner is much better than later. One big change at a time. The big change here is realizing the end of the mommy-and-daddy-will-get-back-together-someday fantasy. Let them process that, remembering that they are not having a political reaction or even probably a shame reaction, just an emotional reaction. Kids are just like the rest of us, first thinking “What does this mean for ME?” Then get into the moving in together conversation.

  7. Anonymous says:

    When my dad came out, I already had a lot of gay friends, so I wasn’t freaked out by “the gay thing.” The resulting divorce was a much bigger issue for me. But since your family is already separated and apparently very amicable, you’ve avoided that hurdle. The other part to consider is how others in their surroundings will react. If you’re in a conservative area or hang out in religious social circles, that might be an added frustration. I didn’t appreciate it when conservative people showed pity for what they perceived as a horrible thing. I also didn’t appreciate when someone responded “That’s awesome!” early on when I was still working out my own emotions.

    I echo the suggestions of being honest, and I suggest you let the kids set the pace by asking questions when they want to know the answer.

    Finally, keep in mind that family members have to have our own “coming out.” My close friends know about my dad, and I never actively conceal the fact, but I don’t advertise it either. My sister is much more private about our family, and it took her years to tell even her best friends why my parents split up. This is why I’m posting anonymously. So, it might be appropriate to have some understanding of who is going to tell mutual acquaintances, like extended family members and family friends.

    Wait, one more. Connect your kids up to someone they can talk to, whether it is this group or a counselor. They are likely to have lots of thoughts and it’s not always comfortable to process those thoughts with our parents. It’s been very helpful for me to hear from others and realize how normal my reactions and my process has been.

    Good luck!

  8. Honesty. That’s all I can advocate. Kids hate to be lied to, and they can tell when something’s being withheld from them. People may tell you you’re going to actually damage your child by coming out to them, that you’re going to mess with their heads and create too much confusion. They may urge you to wait until the child is old enough to “handle it.” But in my experience that wasn’t the case. At all. On the contrary: telling my daughter when she was 10 was the best choice I could’ve made. She was young enough to be curious, to ask questions, and to not be freaked out.

    I’m convinced that if I’d waited until my daughter was older to tell her I’m gay, she would’ve resented the Hell out of me me for not telling her sooner.

    • Anonymous says:

      I agree. My dad came out when I was 20. I always thought if he had come out sooner, it would have just been the new normal. Kids are resilient and bounce back from about anything. It’s adults who are stuck in our ways who get freaked out by change.

    • Thanks Seth!

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