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Collateral Damage? Talking to Your Children

Children must negotiate their own feelings in difficult family matters, yet they don't have the advantage of maturity to make sense of the world they've been thrust in to.

The day Sally found out her dad was gay, her parents called a family meeting. From her sister's phone call, she knew something was very wrong. Sally said, "The house had a quiet eeriness about it. Mom and dad were both at the kitchen table. Coffee cups were on the table and while it appeared normal, it wasn't. After this revelation I tried to make sense of my father's sexual preference but there were still so many unanswered questions. How many people knew? Why hadn't we been told earlier? Dad indicated that homosexuality was hereditary – was that true? Were we potential homosexuals? Did people think we were gay? What about AIDS? What else had he lied about? My brother and sisters and I were young, innocent bystanders. Death would have been easier."

Children must negotiate their own feelings in difficult family matters, yet they don't have the advantage of maturity to make sense of the world they've been thrust in to.

Considerations

To begin with, if you have school-age children and you and your spouse are committed to the healing process, it is not be necessary to involve them. It's important to seek wise counsel and exercise great discernment in what, when (and even if) to disclose information.

This conversation will always be individualized given the extent of the situation, your unique family system, and your own prayerful decisions. The children's age and maturity needs to be taken into consideration. Best advice: Keep it simple!

You must also consider whether or not there is infidelity involved and if the offending spouse is repentant or unrepentant. For example, if the spouse falls headlong into a homosexual affair, it's vital that healthy, biblically based dialogue takes place. If the child is going to spend any time alone with your spouse and his or her partner, boundaries must be set.

As Mike Haley, author of 101 Frequently Asked Questions about Homosexuality says, "Children need their dad [or mom]. The pain of his absence can far outweigh the pain of his lifestyle. Remember that 'homosexuality is not 'caught' from a gay parent. In fact, an affectionate father decreases a boy's vulnerability to homosexuality."

"Still," Haley says, "an openly homosexual father's presence in the life of his children must be carefully evaluated. Openly and frequently address their father's homosexuality. How are they feeling? Are they overwhelmed? Are daddy's actions making them uncomfortable? To get truthful answers notice what they aren't talking about. If they're having an obviously hard time being around their father and his new partner, then they probably need to be shielded – at least in certain situations and for a time."

One family's decision may look different from another's. However, protecting the innocence and trust of children – as much as possible in these cases – should be the utmost priority for both spouses.

"If you determine that the children shouldn't spend unsupervised time with their father, explain the situation to him forthrightly as a non-negotiable reality," says Haley

Talk with your children about biblical truth and human sexuality – and about why God put certain boundaries in place for our own safety and well-being. Be careful not to talk negatively about the spouse. This person is still your child's mother or father!

 

 
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