In this section:
- Should I tell the children? How and when do I tell them?
- Are the children safe with him/her? What about pedophiles?
- What support is available for the children?
- What about their relationship with the LGBT parent?
- Do I need to be concerned about teasing or bullying at school?
- Will my children be LGBT?
Should I tell the children? How and when do I tell them?
Generally speaking, yes, they should be told. How, why and when to tell them are the difficult decisions to make.
If the straight spouse and the LGBT spouse are able to do so amicably, we think that this disclosure is best coming from both parents at the same time. The focus should always be on the children's needs and on how it affects them.
The amount of information to be shared with the children should be tailored to their age, and their need to know. Many spouses report that their best results have come from starting very simply, and then allowing the children to ask questions for clarification as needed.
A key piece of advice is that both parents should stress that no matter what effect the LGBT parent's orientation has on the marriage, they will still have two parents who love and care for them.
Visiting a therapist and discussing the disclosure in advance can help prepare you for possible questions the children might ask, and could allow you to practice the discussion to make it more comfortable.
Most children are more concerned with what the disclosure means to them, rather than the fact that Daddy is gay or Mommy is lesbian. Be prepared to discuss their concerns.
Are the children safe with him/her? What about pedophiles?
Barring other outside issues, yes, they are safe. Simply being LGBT does not in and of itself create an unsafe situation for your children.
With that said, many straight spouses have reported behavior in the LGBT spouse, after disclosure, that caused them concern for their children's safety. Some examples would include; excessive drinking, drug use, the generally adolescent behavior mentioned earlier.
If that is the case and you have concerns for the safety of your children, you must honestly express those concerns to the LGBT spouse and try to protect your children. This is not a time for hysterics; it is a time for honest open discussion of risks and responsibilities.
Listen to your children to see what their comfort level is. If they are uncomfortable with something that is occurring, it is something you will need to deal with.
A special note about Pedophiles; there is absolutely no valid research that indicates LGBT individuals are more likely than straight individuals to be pedophiles, or that they are more likely to abuse children.
What support is available for the children?
There is a website for youths who have one parent who turned out to be gay. It was created by the daughter of one of our Straight Spouse Support Group facilitators. She knows how going through that process feels. Its goal is to provide some clarity and support for others who are going through this difficult time. Please visit: http://standingtogetherintheroughpatches.weebly.com
The largest support group available for the children of LGBT parents is COLAGE. They have a variety of online support groups as well as local chapters and pen pals. They do have a strong pride overtone which can be difficult for some straight spouses.
We have a recommended reading list for children, which provides information to help children's understanding. We are also trying to find new ways to reach out to our children to provide them with further support.
If you are in a location where a face-to-face support group meets, other straight spouses with children can be a great resource for your children.
What about their relationship with the LGBT parent?
While one parent is never responsible for the relationship of the children with the other parent, we think it is important that the straight spouse encourage a continued good relationship with the LGBT parent. This is especially true in divorce cases.
The new dynamics of children's relationships with LGBT parents may be very difficult to create. Although you are hurting and are grieving the loss of your marriage, we feel that in the long run, your children will thank you for the ongoing relationship. Trying to set aside your own feelings and listen to the feelings of your children can be difficult, but as a parent it is the right thing to do.
It's important to resist the urge to use the children as 'go-betweens' for yourself and your LGBT spouse/ex-spouse. Allow them to have their relationship with their other parent on a level they are comfortable with.
Do I need to be concerned about teasing or bullying at school?
An unfortunate reality is that children are regularly teased about anything that is different about them, or about their situation.
Each child is different; some children are very open about their LGBT parent's orientation, and others won't discuss it at all.
What has helped many of our children is an honest discussion with the child about what to do if they are being teased. If possible, have a discreet talk with the school guidance counselors; see that they are willing to step in if teasing does occur.
Will my children be LGBT?
They may, or may not realize they are LGBT. This is not something that anyone can predict with any level of certainty.
While it is not a question we can give a solid answer to, we do suggest asking yourself some questions. Would it lessen your love for the child if he/she does determine that they are gay? What do you want for them in the future? How can you best help them achieve that?
Many of our children do question their sexuality after disclosure of a parent, especially adolescent boys with a gay father. Similar to the "how could I not have known" question that plagues straight spouses, the "am I like him?" question can plague our children.
We think that the best thing we can do as parents is to be supportive of our children no matter what their orientation turns out to be. For a child who is truly concerned, therapy may be a good option to help them explore their own feelings.
We also feel that teaching our children to be true to who they are, is one of the most important gifts that we can give them. If they do turn out to be LGBT, wouldn't you want them to be true to themselves and others around them, rather than living in a closet of fear and denial?