If you have recently gone through a divorce, thus ending a heterosexual relationship with your previous partner, it would certainly come as a surprise to many people – namely your child and your ex – that you would like to start a relationship with a member of the same sex.
Regardless of whether you experienced a change in your feelings after your marriage, or you always knew that your sexual orientation did not line-up with a typical heteronormative relationship, now that your separation has taken place, this is certain to be a time of new-found liberty for you.
The difficulty that comes with being able to access this is, however, the step of informing the people around you. While you absolutely don’t have to tell friends or extended family until you’re ready for it (if ever – it’s your business and you have a right to keep this private, after all), sooner or later, your child will have a right to know about the way that you feel.
Unfortunately, there is still very little material and advice out there on the subject of separated parents coming out to their child. While the matter is being increasingly brought to our attention through individual cases, such as the recent, incredibly thought-provoking interview that Phillip Schofield undertook following on from his own coming out to his wife and children. The nation as a whole realised that this is actually a far more common experience than, naively, many of us previously realised.
So, in this post, I will aspire to provide you with some helpful tips that you can use to come out to your child in a way that encourages a calm, helpful conversation. With this advice to hand, you will hopefully be able to show your child that you understand their perspective, and give them the space and encouragement that they need to understand yours in return.
In a recent piece for Salon by Sudi “Rick” Karatas (author of the insightful book Rainbow Relatives: Real-World Stories and Advice on How to Talk to Kids About LGBTQ+ Families and Friends) he outlined the fact that there may be some shame experienced by the child if one parent leaves another for a homosexual relationship, regardless of whether this should be the case or not:
“Parents should be aware a divorce may be a little harder for kids to deal with when it’s because one parent is gay. It’s an additional change and something else to adjust to in their lives; it’s not as simple as their parents not being together anymore.”
In this way, it’s key that you consider your child’s perspective and help them to work through any reactionary feelings that they may have to this news. Their responses and behaviours could potentially incIude:
It’s bound to be a tricky situation to explain to your child, but here, we’ve listed a few key things that you can focus the conversation on, in order to help best reassure them and help them to understand your feelings:
As your child navigates their emotions to this unprecedented news, help to make sure that they are surrounded by strong support networks.
This could include advice and support from charities and organisations like Stonewall, Colage and Samaritans. Your child might also, potentially, benefit from being able to speak to a counsellor about how they are feeling in a confidential, reassuring discussion.
Your child’s school is another key place to start, as it is here that they may fear discrimination from their peers. However, positive changes are increasingly being witnessed: new research by nfpSynergy, commissioned by Stonewall, found that 60% of British people believe it’s right to teach primary school pupils about different kinds of families, including same-sex parenting.
As of September 2020, all UK secondary schools will be required to teach about sexual orientation and gender identity, and all primary schools will teach about different types of families. This will be a great step towards ensuring that schools and their curriculum encourages diversity and makes your child feel safe and comfortable.
Whatever age you or your child may be, you are bound to find this a nerve wracking experience. But the overwhelming likelihood is that you will feel far happier once you have spoken to your child and been truthful to them about who you are.
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