Helping Your Kids Explain What it Means to Have Two Mommies or Daddies

by Katharine Swan

Many gay or lesbian parents worry about how growing up with two mommies or two daddies will affect their children. Will they have to answer a lot of questions from other children and adults about their family? Will they encounter homophobia? Chances are, the answer to both of those questions is yes. However, by helping your children explain what it means to have two mommies or daddies, you can give them the tools they need to deal with both curiosity and homophobia.

Talk to Your Kids to Help Them Talk to Others

Of course, for a child to explain what it means to have two mommies or daddies, they need to already understand it for themselves. That means that you need to talk openly with your child about your family before you can expect him or her to talk openly about it with others.

Rainbow Family Tree

Be Open, Honest, and Comfortable Talking about It

Children are impressionable creatures. This means that they will pick up on whether you are comfortable talking to them about being gay or lesbian, and they will take their cues from you. In other words, if you act like it is some big, dirty secret, they will too.

When you talk to your child about you and your partner’s relationship, it is important that you show your child you are comfortable explaining it to him or her. Also remember that your child is likely to remember how you explained it, and may repeat your explanations to his or her friends. By talking with your child about the family, you are in fact modeling how you would like him or her to talk about it with others.

Talk to Your Kids about Homophobia

Most kids raised by gay parents don’t mind having two mommies or two daddies – they know that they are loved and well cared for, and that is what matters to them. What they have a hard time with is the homophobia they encounter from their peers, teachers, and others.

Obviously, we can’t eliminate homophobia in one fell swoop. What we can do, however, is talk to our kids about homophobia. Let them know what to expect, and how they can stand up to it. It may help your kids to know that most homophobia comes from a misunderstanding of gays and lesbians – and that by explaining their family to their teachers and friends, they can help to correct those misunderstandings.

Join a Support Group

Knowing other kids who have two mommies or daddies can be extraordinarily helpful for the children of gay or lesbian parents. Joining a support group for GLBT families allows your child to meet other kids who have similar family situations, letting them know that while having two mommies or daddies may be uncommon in some neighborhoods, it is not abnormal. Knowing there are other families like yours will help your child build self-confidence, which will ultimately help him hold his ground when his peers start asking questions.

Practice Responses with Your Kids

Once your child can talk comfortably and confidently about having two mommies or daddies, it is time to help him or her decide how to explain it to others. Let your child know that others are likely to ask questions: other children may want to know why your family is different, while adults tend to question the validity of the family structure by drilling your child on which parent is the “real” one.

There are a number of explanations your child can provide, depending on what he or she is comfortable with or feels is appropriate. Below are just a few suggestions for how your child can respond to questions. Help your child practice by role playing different scenarios, and encouraging him or her to try out different explanations to see what he or she feels most comfortable with.

Girl Meets Girl

You may have explained you and your partner’s sexuality to your child in terms of falling in love. This is a great way for your child to explain your family structure to others, too. When another child or an adult asks your child why she has two mommies or two daddies, she can respond that the two of you met and fell in love and wanted to have children together, just like other parents. This response is ideal because it can be simplified for younger children, but older kids can add detail as they gain a deeper understanding.

Challenge the Traditional Family Stereotype

Despite the stereotype of the traditional family – a biological mom, a biological dad, a couple of kids and a dog – most families today do not fit that mold. Families come in all shapes and sizes: single moms or dads, divorced parents sharing custody, step parents and their children, adopted parents and/or siblings, live-in extended families such as grandparents, aunts, and uncles…and, of course, gay and lesbian parents.

Your previous conversations with your child should have included discussions about how the “normal” type of family isn’t really all that common. Once he or she understands this, it can be used in explanations of what it means to have two mommies or daddies. Chances are most of your child’s classmates have families that are nontraditional in some sense, which your child can remind them of. For instance, a child with a stepfather and a real father, or a birth mom and an adoptive mom, will understand that having two daddies or mommies is not weird or bad.

Twice the Love

Let’s face it – not every child has two equally devoted parents. Your child does, though, and he or she can use that to make his nontraditional family the subject of envy instead of derision. Telling peers, “When I get hurt, I have two mommies to cuddle me,” or, “I have two daddies to build forts with me,” can turn your child’s home life into something wonderful and enviable.

Just the Way It Is

At some point, your child is bound to talk to someone who just doesn’t get it, no matter how confident your child is or how well he or she explains it. Be sure you teach your child not to get stuck in a never-ending conversation with someone like this. Let your child know that it is quite all right to tell someone, “This is just the way it is. Get over it.”

The Importance of Confidence

Explaining what it means to have two mommies or daddies requires that your children not only understand the family dynamics, but also that they have confidence in themselves and their families. As a result, the best thing that you can do to help your children is to help them feel good about themselves and their home life. A child who is confident and unashamed of having gay or lesbian parents is much more likely to be able to explain it in a way that peers and adults can understand and relate to.

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