It's likely at some point your kids will meet peers with same-sex (also called "gay" or "lesbian") parents. Since gay and lesbian individuals can now openly serve in the military, your chances of interacting with a family with same-sex parents are now greater. Your children might have questions about these families, especially if they look different from your own. Your children look to you for insight into how to make sense of and treat families that are different from their own.
They will benefit from honest, open answers that are also age-appropriate. Discussing this in advance will build your kids' confidence and resilience. Kids thrive when they can have open dialogue with their parents. Here are some questions your kids might have, with answers for you to consider.
How Do Gay Or Lesbian Couples Have Kids?
Same-sex couples become parents in a variety of ways. The level of detail you provide to your kids should depend on their age and maturity level. You'll have to decide what you're comfortable sharing, while being honest.
Many same-sex couples become parents by adopting children. Other couples might have kids because they had heterosexual (also called "straight" or "opposite-sex") relationships previously. Still other couples decide to have children through a process of egg donation, surrogacy, or donor insemination.
Do Same-Sex Parents Treat Their Children Differently?
Most same-sex couples approach parenting in much the same way as opposite-sex couples. What helps kids adjust well is the warmth and closeness of their relationship with their parents, and this is true regardless of the parents' sexuality. Kids with gay or lesbian parents report feeling their parents' sexuality doesn't determine their parenting ability.
Are Kids Raised By Same-Sex Couples The Same As Other Kids, Or Are They Different?
Research shows that children and teens with gay and lesbian parents and their peers with straight parents are similar in their educational and social outcomes. Adolescents living with same-sex parents are similar to their peers on measures of well-being such as self-esteem and anxiety. They are no more likely to engage in substance abuse or to be delinquent at home or school. Also, teens and young adults who grew up in households with same-sex parents are no more likely to be gay, lesbian, or bisexual than peers with opposite-sex parents.
Kids raised by gay or lesbian parents do tend to be somewhat more open-minded and tolerant of differences among individuals and families. With first-hand experience of being in a marginalized family structure, adults who grew up with gay or lesbian parents report being empathetic towards other minority groups and appreciative of all forms of diversity.
However, children raised by same-sex parents are different from other kids in that they are more likely to be the victims of bullying because of their family's makeup.
What's Hard About Being The Child Of A Same-Sex Couple?
Kids with gay or lesbian parents are at greater risk of being teased, bullied, or harassed by peers, school staff, or their community because of their parents' relationship status. They might hear negative, derogatory comments such as homophobic slurs. Some report feeling that school staff have discouraged them from talking about their families. Some also report being the victims of physical bullying because they have gay or lesbian parents.
Being bullied can sometimes lead to behavior problems for these kids. Studies suggest that young people who are bullied because of their parents' sexuality are likely to act out at home but be quiet, withdrawn, and non-participative at school. Being bullied because their parents are gay or lesbian can lead some kids to feel anxious, depressed, or aggressive.
Kids with gay and lesbian parents (and all kids, for that matter) benefit from inclusive, inviting school environments where bullying and harassment aren't tolerated.