Families are evolving faster than ever before. We have heterosexual mother and father households, sole parent male or female, gay, young, older, households, grandparents raising grandchildren families. Is there such a thing as a typical family anymore?
Children grow up in a variety of homes as noted above. Their family becomes the norm although watching television they often see both a mum and dad family or they came from a mum and dad family and now may see their other parent every second weekend if a separation occurred.
In relation to children learning about gay marriage I do not believe it is appropriate to discuss this when under the age of 10 years. It means little to a child unless the child asks a relevant question. Sex to a child is something not understood and it shouldn’t be until they are at least in their teens. They do not understand how two men or two women have sex. They learn sex is about procreation and that is about it until high school education years.
How then do we approach the topic of gay marriage? We wait. We wait until the child displays an interest in the subject if they do at all. Some children may naturally accept two people that love each other get married, regardless of gender. Their interest is often born from the family discussion and family belief. As a teen, they will develop their own opinion however many are influenced by their family belief system and or religious beliefs.
If an older child asks about gay marriage, to understand what it means exactly, the only thing a parent needs to say is some people prefer to partner with a person the same gender, while mum and dad preferred to be with an opposite gender person. Let the child know that there is no right or wrong family, only your own family regardless of how this is made up. Some children have two mums, some two dads, some adopted, some with a mum and dad and others have grandparent parents. All different, all acceptable, and hopefully all loving, kind, compassionate and supportive of the children.
If there are comments within the home that are negative about gay marriage, of course, this will influence their child. The child may agree, then as they mature they may believe the parent belief is incorrect and gay people should be able to marry. This is a completely individual choice and one each of us own. No one is necessarily right or wrong; we may simply have different view points. I am sure most of us know or have worked with gay people; they are just people. Not to be feared, not to be concerned about, just people. They work in all areas, often on the train or bus, serve us in the store or restaurant. Point out they are just human beings.
In Australia, gay marriage is yet to be formally passed under law. Most of us expect that to occur however in the mean time; there may be public and media discussions held.
When a child asks questions is the time to address their query. You can openly discuss the pros and cons of a gay union. You can discuss the difference between growing up in a single, hetero sexual or gay household. What is important is to keep the conversation age appropriate for the child and rather than bombarding them with information and facts allow them to be curious and ask questions relevant to their understanding. If they do pose a question that you have difficulty answering, respond with ‘that’s a great question, give me some time to consider that one and I will get back to you’. This is better than saying something regrettable, wrong or in reaction to fear.
All people have the right to be accepted regardless of skin colour, religion, gender, sexuality or economic position. If we raise our children with this balanced belief, then gay marriage will be another form of official union.
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