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Anonymous asks:
Q:

How do I explain gay marriage to my first grader?

We live in California and Prop. 8 (outlawing gay marriage) is stirring up lots of debate, including in media coverage and public discussion at stores, etc..

Our daughter was initially exposed to gay marriage in preschool, where she attended with several children who had gay parents. At that time, I just explained that some kids have two mommies or two daddies, and that's ok - it's different than her parents but ok for them and those kids. She didn't ask any follow-up questions, never made any embarrassing comments about the gay parents, and played nicely with their children.

Now that she's older, she's started making some negative comments about gay marriage and gay parenting, and I'm very concerned and uncomfortable with this behavior. For instance, she'll see a gay couple or family in public or in TV news coverage, and say to me, "That's weird" or "I have a mommy and daddy, and they don't!". The messages I used with her when she was in preschool don't seem to be resonating as well anymore.

Any ideas for how I can explain this to her in simple terms she'll understand, and more importantly, in a way that will foster tolerance for diversity? I don't think avoiding the conversation is an option anymore, particularly if her comments continue (and/or arise at a time that would be hurtful to gay people and/or their children). I also don't agree with the notion that gay marriage is against God's will, so that's not an option either. Please help!
In Topics: Communicating with my child (The tough talks), Gay and lesbian parents
> 60 days ago

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Expert

lkauffman
May 28, 2009
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What the Expert Says:

I just had a conversation with another mom on this very same topic earlier this week. I know that this topic is on the minds of many parents, so I thank you for bringing it to this discussion forum, so that we can learn together how to tackle this very difficult issue.
 
I think that it is important that you keep in mind that you will have many, many conversations with your daughter over the years about this issue, so there is no pressure to "get it right" this time. Your job at this point is to help your daughter understand the importance of respect and tolerance for others, no matter what side of the debate she ultimately will fall on. And, I would also encourage you to share your views with her and help her to understand the way that you see the world and explain that others have differing opinions, so that she will have a foundation for understanding the debate.
 
So, how to begin? I would start by choosing a quiet moment at home or in the car, and say something like, "I noticed recently that you have made comments recently about how weird families with two mommies and two daddies are. Can you tell me more about that?" Spend the first part of this conversation listening and trying to understand her point of view.
 
Depending upon what you learn, your conversation may go in a number of ways, but you will likely want to explain your views. You might say, "I understand that you feel this way, but I want you to know that I feel....[whatever your opinion is]." Reassure her that she won't understand all of what you are discussing.
 
You appreciate how complicated it is and most adults have trouble understanding all nuances of the debate. Let her know that above all, no matter what her opinion on the debate, it is important to be respectful, and encourage her to keep "weird" comments to herself. She wouldn't like it if one of her friends told her that she is "weird" because she doesn't celebrate Hanukkah, or Christmas, or whatever it may be, would she? People's feelings get hurt, and we want to be respectful of other people's feelings.  I have also included links to a couple of articles on the topic below.
 
Best of luck to you.  L. Compian, Ph.D. Counseling Psychologist Education.com
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kat_eden
May 29, 2009
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Best Answer!

what's this?
from a fellow member
I'm also a straight mom raising a first grader (and a preschooler) in California so I share your pain! I recently had the "joy" of trying to explain to my children why someone would come into our front yard and violently shred our "Vote No on Prop 8" sign. Something I hope I never have to do again.

I just keep trying to tell them what their daddy and I believe and promising them that I'll keep doing whatever I can to help make sure the world is a better and more fair place when they grow up and fall in love and want to get married. I also try to encourage them that change is possible by telling them that when their grandparents were kids the "definition of marriage" said that black people and white people weren't allowed to marry each other and that people who realized that was wrong worked and worked and didn't give up until the definition was changed. Today we have to work and work and never give up until we open the hearts and minds of those who think men shouldn't be allowed to marry men and women shouldn't be allowed to marry women.

I wouldn't be too hard on your daughter for her recent behavior. It's obvious that you've laid a foundation of tolerance so she's probably just picking up on cues from her peers ("that's weird") or she's just stating a fact that she doesn't even realize is hurtful ("I have a mommy and daddy and they don't"). My four year old recently noted out loud that a woman we walked by on the street was "REALLY fat". He was genuinely confused when I jumped all over him for saying that. To him it was just an honest observation like "the sky is blue". There's an awful lot to learn about what's ok to say out loud and what isn't.

Instead I'd just continue to talk to her the way you have been. If you're like me it's really hard to try to explain something you truly don't understand yourself. But I make myself keep trying because I know it's one way to help keep my promise of making the world a better and more fair place when they grow up. They're the future after all!

Hang in there!

Kat

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Additional Answers (11)

Loddie1
Loddie1 , Parent writes:
It seems your 1st grader is picking up a lot of things everywhere. However,  "gay marriage" is not what God intended and children are smart and realize this. I would not try to convince her otherwise. To procreate there must be a man and a woman. So I would explain the biblical explanation of a marriage. However, 1st grade is a little young to go into all the social dynamics of America. I would keep it simple and to the point. Tolerance is a different topic altogether. I don't agree with gay marriage, but I can tolerate those around me who are gay and married. I have a sister-in-law that is gay and lives with her partner. And while they are nice to my daughter, I don't allow her to visit often b/c I feel like the two of them showing public affection would only confuse her.
> 60 days ago

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sloane39
sloane39 writes:
we view it as anything else here.  We do not tolerate any kind of hateful slurs at anyone.  Weather it be race, sexual orientation, gender...blah blah blah.  We keep it real simple.   Its not tolerated in our house.

As for 'gay marriage', we explain that all families are different.  

If she is focused on the how 'weird' to have two parents of the same sex, then I would ask her why she thinks its weird.  

then I would point out that some kids only have one parent, and some just live with their grandma's, and that might seem weird to some people.

and of course that some kids dont have any parents at all, and how sad is that.  Wouldn't you rather have two dads or two moms that love you with all their heart then to have no parents at all to tuck you into your bed at night all cozy and warm?

I dont think its the 'gay marriage' thing she thinks is weird, as she is to young to fully understand, but she does see having two moms or two dads is weird, she is picking it up and will hear it for the rest of her life, its our jobs to make sure that she understands that all families are different and its not good to judge people as you wouldnt anyone to judge you.
> 60 days ago

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drudolph
drudolph writes:
I would reiterate what sloane39 said above. All families are different, and the simplest answer is to put families with two moms or two dads in the context of the whole variety out there. I would also add that there's really no such thing as "gay marriage." Marriage is marriage, a commitment of two loving adults. Many--but not all--of them, regardless of gender, choose to have families of their own. Children with same-sex parents are a more common occurrence in our society these days, and if other children see them and their families doing all the "normal" family things that we do--from attend PTA potlucks to going to Disney World--and being accepted, they will be confused very little, if at all.

Todd Parr's The Family Book is a great, simple picture book that showcases all types of families. It's aimed very young--probably more for preschool than for first graders, but might be of interest. For children slightly older, try Susan Kuklin's Families.

I would also refer Loddie1 to Alec Baldwin's piece today on HuffPo, "Why Childless Straight Couples Make the Case for Gay Marriage." Briefly, he argues that if we make the "marriage is for procreation" argument, then we must question whether opposite-sex couples who cannot or chose not to have children should be allowed to marry: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alec-baldwin/why-childless-straight-co_b_208457.html

Yes, to procreate, it takes a sperm and an egg, but mostly it takes loving parents. My partner and I used sperm from a sperm bank, but the mechanics of our son's creation are far less important than the love with which we are raising him.
> 60 days ago

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Loddie1
Loddie1 , Parent writes:
I appreciate your "Alec Baldwin" reference. However, he is not the one to be giving out advice on marriages. I take my views on marriage from a biblical standpoint. Thanks anyway for the comment ;)
> 60 days ago

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sloane39
sloane39 writes:
Loddie
"I can tolerate those around me who are gay and married."

It's funny you bring that up, because for years, gays and lesbians are forced to 'tolerate' ignorant people on so many levels.

Just curious Loddie, do you believe in slavery?  If so, how many slaves do you actually have?   What about divorce?  what about....oh forget it.

I guess for me, if someone brings up the bible as being the 'only word', its really hard to debate that.  After all, if one uses the bible as given permission to believe in hate and bigotry, there really is no use in discussing this.

The poster did not ask anyones views on gay marraige, she asked how she can explain it to her daughter.
> 60 days ago

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dgraab
dgraab , Parent writes:
Thank you to everyone who is contributing suggestions to help this parent explain same-sex marriage to his/her child. In responding to the question, though, please remember to be courteous to other JustAsk members, regardless of any disagreement in opinion. Please also be mindful that the point here is to provide helpful advice for this parent (and others with the same question or concern who may refer to this JustAsk page) -- not to debate the merits of same-sex marriage.

Thank you,
Denise Graab
Education.com Community Manager
> 60 days ago

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momtoo
momtoo writes:
I think you should find out from your daughter what she actually believes a marriage should be and accept it at this point because she seems too young to even understand what you may say back. It is up to you to teach her what is best and the truth.  When she gets older she will have her own opinion regardless of what you think.  As far as making comments,  the parents should always teach children not to be hurtful to others.  Good Luck
> 60 days ago

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Loddie1
Loddie1 , Parent writes:
Hi,
I don't agree with gay marriage to answer your question and that is okay b/c we are all entitled to an opinion ;) However, I do not agree with taunting, teasing, or degrading another human for ANY reason. My views are from a biblical stand point, so they may conflict with others here who are coming from a non-biblical perspective. When the time comes to discuss gay relationships, then my personal focus with be what God has deemed acceptable and right ( this is not my own view but God's). SO I WILL teach biblical truth to my daughter. And yes, sadly some will disagree with this but that is the difference between a Christian education and a non.
> 60 days ago

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crispingary
crispingary writes:
I think your dilemma is one which can be solved by pointing out the differences between cultures, and even differences other than this specific issue in our own country. For example, a quick youtube video showing the daily life of families in several different countries. People who live very different than you may, but share a couple similarities. The important things. Single parents  in our own country have a different arrangement than the norm. I believe a good explanation as to why it is ok, would be to say that the only thing that is important is that there is someone there that cares for that child. (show pictures of street kids). If there is someone who is willing to love, and someone who is sad and needs love, why should they not come together.

This video is very powerful but you may not want to show the kids. That's your choice as a parent. Very Sad. Good Luck I wish you the best.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cxifD-88hTU

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Vickielynne
Vickielynne writes:
I have a gay sister whom I don't see often so I really didn't have to explain it yet to my two boys who are on the Autism Spectrum along with some other disabilities. Ages 6 & 10. But now my step-daughter, that I raised with her father who is also gay, will be getting married in July. My boys will be in that wedding and finding an apropriate way to explain same sex marriage was my reason for coming on this site.

Loddie1
While you are definately entitled to your opinion, I find that your refering to religion as a reason to "prove" that same sex marriage is wrong is extremely hurtful to me. Are you saying that she's going to hell? My daughter is a contributing member to society, has been baptized, has made communion, and goes to church EVERY Sunday. Even though the CHURCH refuses to marry same sex partners, isn't the LORD a forgiving one? Doesn't the Lord love ALL of his children?  I don't believe the Lord teaches predjudice or hatred. I don't believe the Lord only has "Conditional" love for his children. I do agree that they shouldn't be openly affectionate, (only because some childrens parents have not explained this to their children yet and THEY should decide when the time is right) I also believe that straight people shouldn't either. My children see us, their parents, hugging, but I believe that's all they should see-gay or straight. Also, their are so many unwanted children in this world that need homes. Don't they deserve a loving home with parents that choose to give them a good life? Is that not a Godly deed? It's such a shame that there are still "religious" people out there that are filled with bigotry and hatred. Maybe YOU should pray for forgiveness...
> 60 days ago

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mommy2girls!
mommy2girls! writes:
"I also don't agree with the notion that gay marriage is against God's will, so that's not an option either."

As I am growing in my faith and learning that the bible is the ultimate authority for followers of Christ, I have learned that gay marriage is against God's will. I used to think I could customize my faith and my perception of God according to my views, but that is not the case. Once I decided to follow Christ and declare obedience to God, I can no longer say that gay marriage is okay by God (I used to think so too). God is all loving and loves us no matter what (just like a parent loves his children no matter what), and his son, Jesus, taught love and compassion for everyone. So you CAN love a gay person and you CAN teach your child about love, compassion and kindness to everyone, and you CAN have your own opinion, but what about teaching her that marriage, defined by God, is about a man and woman, becoming one? You can tell her we live in a broken world where many, many things are not as they should be, and that God loves us anyway, but that that does not give us license to do whatever we please. My husband says it well: we're not telling gays and lesbians how to live, that is their choice and free will under God, just don't call it marriage. Marriage, as defined by God, is the union of man and woman. The sad thing is that unless you are a Christ-follower, you won't see it that way.
> 60 days ago

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