Web Tease: Whether you are for, against, or undecided on the issue of gay marriage, if you have children there will be questions to answer. The best time to formulate your answers is before they come up.
Gay marriage and the issues and impact surrounding it are all over the news. This is a heated topic, and the chances of your children asking you about it are very high. Don't put off studying the issues. Now is the time to find the best way to explain this to your child in age-appropriate terms they can understand.
Here are some insights on when and how to approach the subject:
- Watch for child's signal. This is not a discussion you need to initiate until you receive some sort of signal from your child. Perhaps a question or a comment will tell you it is time to discuss the topic. "My friend, Sophie, has two moms" or "Why are those two men holding hands?" Are both clues it's time for you to begin a chat.
- Begin with questions. To gage your child's understanding, ask simple questions like "What do you think about that?" or "Does that confuse you?" The answers will guide you into how much information you need to dispense to satisfy their curiosity. L. Compian, PhD. of Education.com gives this advice: "I would start by choosing a quiet moment at home or in the car, and say something like, 'I noticed recently that you have made comments recently about how weird families with two mommies and two daddies are. Can you tell me more about that?' Spend the first part of this conversation listening and trying to understand her point of view."
- Maintain control over your feelings. This is likely a topic you have strong feelings about, one way or the other. It is best to keep your emotions out of it. If you are against, try not to get angry or loud. Give facts. If you are for, maintain a calm demeanor.
- It is OK to share your thoughts and opinions, but do so without prejudice. Once children are old enough, and you'll know that by listening for signals, share your opinions without prejudice. For example, begin with words like "I believe . . .", "This is why . . ."; or ask, "What do you think?" Regardless of what your stance is, don't teach hatered and intolerance.
- Social impacts and politics. If your children are older, you my begin to have open dialogs about the social impact of gay marriage on society and the political debates that surround the issue. Allow your child to voice his or her opinions, and freely voice yours. Debate is good and teaches children to really analyze topics and formulate their own opinions. Help them understand that the name-calling accomplishes nothing, but that too often both sides of the fence will stoop to slanderous labeling and accusation.
- The simple explanation of same-sex attraction is just that—men who romantically like other men and women who romantically like other women.
- Chances are, your children go to school with, or otherwise know, or will at sometime know children of gay or lesbian parents. It is estimated that 2 million children are being raised by same-sex couples. It is probably not news to them.
- There are all kinds of families: families with a single parent, grandparents raising grandchildren, couples living together raising children. This is another type of family.
- Ridiculing and bullying is wrong, no matter what you believe.
- Some people believe that gay marriage is wrong and should not be legal. Some people believe that it's a matter of personal choice and should be legal. Some people believe that it is wrong but it is a matter of personal choice. Some people believe that the federal government should be involved; others believe that the federal government should not be involved; still, others believe it should be left to state governments.
- The heart of the debate is really whether the governments can redefine marriage or whether it should simply recognize the union of same-sex couples.
- The reasons it matters so much and why people get so passionate are the basic debate issues—morality, taxes, human rights, insurance and whether it is a church or state issue.
Don't fear the talk. Be calm. State the facts in an age-appropriate way and tell your children where you stand on the issues. Avoid labeling and slandering and teach love not necessarily for the lifestyle, but for all mankind. Once old enough, point out the political, financial and moral implications. Discuss whether this should be a state or religious issue. Ask them their opinions and respond with yours.