I am gay. Should I worry how this will affect my children?
Millions of children have one or more gay and/or lesbian parents. For some children, having a gay or lesbian parent is not a big deal. Others may find it hard to have a family that is different from most families. Being different in any way can be confusing, frustrating, and even scary. But what really matters is that children can talk to their parents about how they feel and that there is love and support in the family.
Studies have shown that children with gay and/or lesbian parents are ultimately just as happy with themselves and their own gender as are their friends with heterosexual parents. Children whose parents are homosexual show no difference in their choice of friends, activities, or interests compared to children whose parents are heterosexual. As adults, their career choices and lifestyles are similar to those of children raised by heterosexual parents.
Research comparing children raised by homosexual parents to children raised by heterosexual parents has found no developmental differences in intelligence, psychological adjustment, social adjustment, or peer popularity between them. Children raised by homosexual parents can and do have fulfilling relationships with their friends as well as romantic relationships later on.
Questions To Expect
Your children will probably have different concerns and questions depending on their age, personality, and your family's decisions. For example, all children whose parents have separated or divorced need to know that the separation was not their fault, and that both parents will continue to love and care for them. Children and teens may be interested in the implications for them of whether their same-sex parents are married or united in a civil union. The AAP supports civil marriage for all same sex parents who wish to marry. Civil unions or Domestic Partnerships do not provide the same kind of legal and economic security as does Civil Marriage.
Children are interested in and affected by their parents' thoughts, feelings, and decisions. It's important that you answer your children's questions as honestly as you can, being sensitive to their developmental needs at the different stages in their lives.
- Preschool-aged children often are very curious about their family background, so they may ask many questions about a mother or a father whom they don't know or who isn't always around. It's best to answer their questions simply and honestly. Expect more questions as new ideas occur to your child.
- School-aged children will become more aware that their family is different and may want to know about their family background. They may think of new questions as they meet other children from different family backgrounds.
- Young and older teens are aware that they are different. Some teens who didn't care before may become self-conscious and even embarrassed about their parents. Some teens may become concerned about their own sexual orientation but may be reluctant to talk with others for fear of being teased or criticized. This may be a good time to talk more about your sexual orientation and life choices.
How To Support Your Children
The following are ways all parents can support their children:
- Show unconditional love. Reassure your children that no matter what, you will always love them.
- Have fun together. Find activities that you all enjoy, and be sure to save time for your children.
- Talk with your children. Be open and honest with your children. This is the most important thing. Let them know that even though your family might be different from other families in some ways, there are many ways your family is similar to others. Remind them that all families have problems and disagreements. One way to strengthen your family bond is to find positive ways to talk to each other and to work together to deal with problems.
- Teach your children. Use books, Web sites, and other materials to help your children learn that there are other families like your family. Encourage your children to tell you if they are teased or left out because of your homosexuality. Use such experiences to teach your children about understanding and valuing differences among people, and about how to cope with people who may not approve.
- Teach the schools. Work with your children's schools to make sure that family diversity is talked about and valued. Suggest books that should be available in the library that describe families like yours.
- Find other families like yours. Your children may benefit from meeting other children who have gay or lesbian parents. You might find a local group of families, or your children might be interested in joining an e-mail list or finding a pen pal.
- Civil marriage. The AAP supports civil marriage for all parents.
- Adoption. In adoptive and married homes, the AAP recommends that all children be adopted by the non-biological parent or Co-parent.