Tips on how and when to explain to children where they are from when the family dynamic is LGBT.
At some stage all children will ask “Where did I come from?” whatever shape your family dynamic takes. If your family has two dads or two mums, you may feel totally comfortable with this conversation, or some may feel it’s a more sensitive topic, with uncertainties around what the best time for these conversations to begin is and how much information or detail you should give.
It’s important to remember that all children develop at different stages and will ask questions at different times. And similarly, as with all parenting matters, there’s often no clear path, but answering their questions directly, honestly and freely and using your judgement on what information your child can process will help you decide what’s appropriate for your situation.
This general advice will provide a helpful steer on how to begin and frame this conversation.
Natural Conversation – having said that, let the subject come up naturally and then expand on it slowly, don’t try and force the conversation.
The Truth – It will help you in the long run to start from a position of being honest and open. Using simple facts, appropriate terminology and clear descriptions, children can understand a great deal without having to go into too much detail about sex, which can be explained later. Sticking to the mechanics of eggs and sperm to start with and using examples such as seeds growing can help to explain.
Timing – Don’t expect – or try - to explain everything all at once, these conversations often happen in small chunks over an extended period of time. Be prepared to answer just the one question they ask without elaborating too much and then be guided by them. If they ask another question, fine, if they are satisfied with your answer that’s fine too. Your child may well move off onto another topic or go and play. This will allow them to process the information and return to you later with follow up questions.
Respect – acknowledge and be respectful of other people who have been involved in the creation of your child such as surrogates, donors or adoption families, it will help your child understand who was part of the process and be at ease that.
The Journey - Be proud of the journey that you’ve been on to become a parent and share that with your child. You may want to create a memories diary or album documenting the different stages with pictures and keepsakes for them to look over and process in their own time. Other age appropriate story books can also be helpful to explain in simple terms how your family was created (see below).
Be Comfortable – If you feel awkward talking about the subject with your child, they may feel this and reflect your emotions. Try to feel at ease when explaining your story and respond to their questions in a relaxed manner – And this goes for your children’s friends as well, who may ask innocent questions that feel quite blunt or insensitive.
Learn from Others – If you have friends in the same position, chat with them about their experiences and learn what worked best for them or if there’s anything they would do differently.
The Love – Don’t forget the most important part of telling your child their story is how much they are loved and wanted. Your journey to have them is a story with a great ending – them! – so it’s important they feel that.
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