First, My young children -- elementary school
age -- have heard the word "gay" and want to know more. They already
find the idea of sex simply "awful," so what is the best way to
introduce them to this without telling them too much, too little, and neither
scolding them for their usual initial reactions of horror as with any idea of
love and relationships. It comes up more and more and they strain to understand
and make sense of things, sometimes long before they are ready. Any thoughts?
I'm delighted you're thinking about how
to answer these questions for young children, because now is when your children
are learning values about people with different sexual orientations. Now is when
they're hearing words like "dyke" and "faggot" on the
playground, so it's the right time to provide alternatives.
It's important not to put any more
emphasis on sex than you would in explaining heterosexual relationships to
children in grade school. I'm sure you've thought about how to explain
heterosexual relationships and sex to your children, especially how to do that
in a way that fits their level of emotional and cognitive development. I'd use
the same strategy in considering how to explain gay and lesbian relationships.
Also, there are books written for varying
ages that will help you explain. For instance, one popular work is Heather
Has Two Mommies, by Leslea Newman and Diana Souza. Another is Uncle
What Is It Is Coming To Visit by Michael Willhoite.
Thanks for being so thoughtful about
teaching your children!
Author and psychologist Gail S. Bernstein,
Ph.D. has a psychotherapy practice in Denver, Colorado. Dr. Bernstein speaks
and writes about gay, lesbian and bisexual people for both general and professional
audiences, and is the author of the new audiotape, NOT
HETEROSEXUAL: An Educational Program About Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual People.