What and how should I teach my children about homosexuality?

Teaching about homosexuality should take place in the context of general sex education, relationship education and health education, against the backdrop of the vision of marriage being a lifelong love commitment between one man and one woman. Addressing homosexuality as a standalone topic can otherwise portray to children a hypocrisy of their parents about what standards and issues can be talked about.

“Mummy, why are those two men kissing?” a young child may ask about a homosexual neighbour.

Keep your answers simple.1 A possible answer: “Some people think it’s okay for two men or women to love each other in the same way a Mummy and Daddy does. But our family doesn’t think this is right – God didn’t make man and woman that way. We should not be mean to them, though.”

Never lie. Don’t give false information, even when homosexuality is occurring in your home and you are tempted to “cover” for the sibling or spouse involved. Answer questions directly, giving information appropriate to the age of the child.

Exercise wisdom of timing. One father prayed for God’s perfect timing on telling his sons that their favourite cousin had embraced homosexuality. After the disclosure, his boys continued to love their cousin, and even changed their attitude towards homosexuals.

Acknowledge that the topic may refer to someone they admire or love. Just as you may have to explain that a much-loved aunt is also a gambling addict, convey compassion for those engaging in homosexual conduct, even while explaining why you disagree with their behaviour. Remember that your tone of voice, body language and actions towards that person speak louder than words, and that your child will take his cues from you.

Just as in sex education, it is important for parents to get in early with information about homosexuality. Failure to do so allows our children’s minds to be shaped by popular culture and the media, neither of which may share our views or values.

 

Endnotes

1.  Love Won Out series: When a Loved One Says, “I’m Gay.” (Focus on the Family, 2002)

My toddler is exhibiting behaviours typical of the opposite sex. Should I be concerned?

It is not uncommon for toddlers and pre-schoolers to exhibit behaviours typically associated with the opposite sex, as gender roles are still in development. Boys in kindergarten may be happy to play “girly” games like dress-up, while girls may insist on behaving “just like the boys”. Not all atypical gender interests should cause concern, so be careful not to humiliate your child because of an occasional episode.1

Parents should be concerned if, in addition to demonstrating behaviours and interests of the opposite sex, their child expresses:

  • a persistent desire to be, or insistence that he/she is, the other sex
  • a persistent and strong discomfort with his/her own sex and gender role

If this is observed, parents should seek the guidance and expertise of a psychotherapist who believes that change is possible.2  There is always hope: Development into a heterosexual gender identity is possible.

Development of gender identity typically goes through the following stages:3

0-4 yrs
  • Attachment to same-gender parent.
  • Boys require an additional step of identifying with Father after separating from Mother.
5-9 yrs
  • Attachment to same-gender siblings and playmates.
  • Identification with same-gender role models or heroes during play.
10-14 yrs
  • Curiosity towards opposite-gender peers with complementary qualities.
  • Children who are unable to form healthy levels of attachment in their relationships may become easy prey for sexual predators.
14-18 yrs
  • Self-conscious about emerging man-/ womanhood.
  • Same- and opposite-gender identification with other authority figures.
18-21 yrs
  • Opposite-gender social relationships can develop into more exclusive and romantic interests. Increasingly, heavy media exposure has resulted in this happening at an earlier age.
21 & above
  • Commitment in romantic relationships with a member of the opposite-gender can lead to intimacy that culminates in sexual relations within marriage.

 

Endnotes
1. Mike Haley, 101 Frequently Asked Questions About Homosexuality(Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2004)
2. Joseph Nicolosi and Linda A. Nicolosi, A Parent’s Guide to Preventing Homosexuality (Illinois InterVarsity Press, 2002)
3. Ibid.

My child is getting teased for not acting like his/her same-sex peers. What should I do?

Children can be mean, and even at their best, be insensitively frank. Whenever possible, stop others from name-calling such as “Tomboy [nickname]!” or making derogatory remarks, such as, “You’re such a sissy!”

Equip them to face peer pressure and counter bullying. Help your child to differentiate what is being said about them from their real identity as a developing young man/ woman, and respond to taunts with words rather than fists: “It’s not nice or right to call people names.”

Build up your child’s sense of self and worth. Positively call out and affirm the masculinity in your son (“That was very gentlemanly of you!”) and femininity in your daughter (“I’m glad my little princess showed kindness”). At the same time, assure your child that as a unique individual, he/ she does not have to conform to stereotypical gender roles to be loveable.

Engage in gender-typical activities together. For example, Dad can teach Son to throw and catch a ball; Mum can do her nails with Daughter. Children benefit most from the bonding with and role modelling by their same-sex parent. Mirror for them from young what it means to be male/ female, including accepting their body as the physical representation of their gender.

You should become concerned only when your child continues in frequent activities that are more typical of the opposite sex, and begins to adopt other habits and mannerisms, e.g., Son uses Mum’s makeup and later becomes fascinated with female accessories and acts more girlish than Mum or Sister.

Together with your spouse, recognize the underlying issues that may be contributing to your child’s gender confusion, agree to work together to help resolve them, and seek the guidance and expertise of a counsellor or psychotherapist who believes that change is possible.1

 

Endnotes
1. Joseph Nicolosi and Linda A. Nicolosi, A Parent’s Guide to Preventing Homosexuality (Illinois InterVarsity Press, 2002)

 

How should I respond if my son/daughter tells me he/she is homosexual?

The intense emotions that accompany an announcement like this can often cloud your responses as parents. Harsh words and actions rarely pave the way for the kind of dialogue that is needed. Instead, they create hurt and distance in the relationship that can be almost impossible to overcome.1

Take a deep breath and have a self-imposed timeout. Once you’ve collected your thoughts, locate relevant resources and books to understand the development of homosexuality. Take time to learn, assimilate and process all the information – but don’t use that as an excuse to avoid conversation. When you are ready, initiate the conversation and listen to their story with an open heart and a spirit of love. You may learn things about their lives and experiences that you did not know.

Give yourself permission to grieve. Self-condemnation and feelings of guilt may plague a parent when things don’t go as they’d intended for their children. All parents make mistakes and all parents are imperfect. Accept that the parent-child relationship may be one of many contributing factors in the scheme of complex influences.

Find some support. You aren’t the only person in the world who has a homosexual loved one. These feelings of hurt, shame and perhaps embarrassment can be hard to handle, but the weight of suffering alone is far more detrimental. You must admit your need, make yourself vulnerable and ask for help.

Examine your expectations. As parents, your greatest desire is probably for your child to leave the homosexual lifestyle and be set free from same-sex sexual attraction. Be wary of allowing your hope to become an expectation. Such expectations feel more like commands to your child and will strain your relationship. Rather, pray for God’s help as you journey together with your son/ daughter.

Exercise loving discipline. Discuss and agree on what is acceptable behaviour. If the house rules are violated (e.g., your child displays inappropriate affection towards his/ her same-sex partner in the home despite the agreement that you will accept the same-sex partner but not any same-sex erotic behaviour), make sure the consequences have been spelt out beforehand and are followed through in a rational, calm manner.

Stand your ground. Some parents who initially disagree with homosexuality swing to the opposite view upon discovering that their child has same-sex sexual attraction or is engaging in homosexual conduct. While you should soften your approach towards the issue, avoidthe temptation to change your stand. Genuine tough love requires us to admit and accept responsibility where we may have contributed to the problem, without compromising on what we know to be true and Biblical.

Keeping the boundaries constant will ultimately earn us the respect of our children; loving discipline reassures them of our love even when they wilfully choose to pursue the homosexual lifestyle. On the contrary, changing our stand to accommodate their decision closes the door for them to choose to live according to God’s original design.

Endnotes
1. Mike Haley, 101 Frequently Asked Questions About Homosexuality(Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2004)

How do I love my homosexual son/daughter?

If your son/ daughter tells you that they have embraced a homosexual identity, they are probably asking you to accept it as well. This may be your greatest challenge. You may never accept homosexuality as being normal or desirable; however, it is important that you accept your child and the fact that to them, their same-sex sexual attractions are too real to be ignored.1

Be honest. By being open and disclosing their feelings to you, your son/ daughter is entrusting you with very personal and difficult information. Few homosexual people expect their parents to just shrug off the news and almost all expect some negative reaction. Tell them honestly and calmly how you feel – possibly hurt, angry, frightened, disillusioned – without beating around the bush about your own beliefs. Judging or condemning their actions will only alienate them, so avoid accusations like, “You’re going to bring shame to our family”.

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