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10 Jan 2006

Gay Father
My son is going to turn 12 towards the end of this year. When and how is the best way to tell him about his father's gay lifestyle?
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Expert
CyberShrink
cybershrink

01 Jan 0001

Maybe there are several issues here. If he asks, perhaps because he has heard rumours or whatever, then you can't avoid discussing it --- with an emphasis on what he knows, accurate or inaccurate, what he thinks or fantasizes, how he feels about it --- and a discussion based on the real facts but aimed at his current concerns. If he doesn't know and isn't likely to find out, then you may have the luxury of choosing a time
And you know, I'm puzzled that you seem to see this as something YOU have to do, and without apparently involving his dad, who should form part of such a discussion. Surely this is the father's task in this situation ? have you even discussed it with him ? So much of the specifics of what to say and how to discuss this will depend on specific details you don't have the space to tell us here.
Clueless makes the important point of taking into account the boy's social maturity, and Likeitis makes the excellent point that you shouldn't assume he knows nothing, and that today's kids know more ( accurate or inaccurate, again ) and can at times take such news more calmly than we might expect.
In communicating about any sensitive topic, don't assume that because you haven't said anything, they don't know something --- and don't assume that because you have said something, that they have understood and absorbed whatever you said.
Discussion should concentrate on facts and on what impact if any this needs to have on the boy himself, not on being judgemental or transmitting your own feelings, whatever they may be, to the boy.
As Delene emphasizes, the discussion, when it comes, is not entirely about homosexuality, but also about whether his father may have deceived the boy, or if the boy feels that he has.
I think Clueless is accepting generalities and prejudices in assuming that this means that the father is any the less manly, masculine, etc., than otherwise. Annon's comments here are very significant. Some of the most manly men I've encountered happened to be gay, and some of the biggest sissies I ever met were definitively heterosexual.
With regard to this as with other major issues in life, kids reactions usuallly take strong cues from parents reactions. If you react or discuss this as if it is a catastrophe and the end of the world as we know it, the boy will be seriously alarmed and concerned. If you take it calmly, he will probably do likewise.
And, as Annon implies, kids can usually tell the difference between love and sex, and issues such as the fact that his dad still loves him, and you too, may be more important than sexual details.
Let us not trasmit whatever might be our own hangups over sexual matters to the children. What if you had discovered that your husband was brought up in a different religion than you had assumed ? It might become relevant to discuss, but wouldnt need to be a major problem.
And remember than such research as there is has shown that gay men or women, as single parents or couples, bring up entirely normal children, without any harm or sexual influence on the children. After all, almost every homosexual was, presumably, born to a pair of heterosexual parents. This is where I disagree with "Me" --- there is no evidence of the problems hinted at in that message. If a child can grow up gay even in a straight environment and "exposed" to two adult heterosexuals, then a child can grow up straight in a family that includes one or more homosexual adults.
I also like Talebe's point of remembering that the boy is still in the long process of discovering his own personality and identity, and doesn't need to be confused by becoming involved in matters that may upset the adults in the family. Especially if they are only questionably adult, like Johan.
Deeve seems to identify the best ingredients for such a family relationship to work out well.
Towards the end of the messages, you comment that his father has had many years to tell the boy and hasnt --- well, before the age of 12 he may very justifiably have felt it unwise to do so ( imagine a family sitting down solemnly with a 6 year-old to tell her than Mom is a heterosexual !). Your later comment adds to a feeling latent in your original message, suggesting that this issue greatly annoys you, and that it is the emotional problems you have with this ( which may indeed be entirely justified ; I am not minimizing that ) which may be pressing your concerns. It makes sense for you to have a firm discussion with your husband expressing your concern that he ought to be ready to talk with the boy about this ( what does he plan to do, or want you to do, if the boy asks ? )
And I think Deeve's closing comments are worth repeating : "Just encourage your boy to love his Dad for who he is. Kids are terribly resilient."







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