A lesbian couple with young children recently moved in a couple of houses down the block. Our kids have struck up a friendship with their kids, and I'm at a bit of a loss as to how to handle the situation. I want to teach my kids to be loving and accepting of the children. At the same time, I'd like to be able to explain the moral issues surrounding the parents' relationship. How can I protect my children while also engaging this family for the sake of Christ?
Let's begin by reminding ourselves of an important biblical truth. Lesbians are no greater sinners than anybody else. Why mention this? Because the challenges you're facing with these neighbors are in many ways no different than those confronting you in connection with any other family on the block. As Christians living in a non-Christian world, we always have to be "wise as serpents and innocent as doves." In the parenting context, this means figuring out how to protect your children physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually while still maintaining an open heart and demonstrating Christ's love to those who don't necessarily share your convictions.
Bottom line: exercise caution whenever your kids want to go and play in the home of another family. It doesn't matter who that family is or what they may be: gay, straight, conservative, liberal, Christian, Jewish, or Muslim. You should always be careful and vigilant. Not that you should shelter your kids unnecessarily. After all, if they're going to live in this world, they're going to have to learn to relate to people from a wide variety of backgrounds and many different walks of life. Still, it's absolutely vital that you get to know the other parents on your street. You need to cultivate a working knowledge of what goes on in their homes before releasing your children into the neighborhood.
If you're not comfortable with a particular family's lifestyle, it's appropriate for you to establish guidelines and set up some reasonable boundaries for your children. Here again, we're not just talking about gays and lesbians. There might also be a single mom on your block who takes in part-time lovers, a household with teens who watch questionable movies, or a dad whom you suspect of being involved with pornography. You don't have to sacrifice your values and principles simply to be "nice" to the neighbors. You can tell your children, "It's okay to play in Johnny's front yard, but I don't want you going inside his house. Not unless you come and ask me first." You can also encourage your kids to bring their friends home to play. All of these principles would apply in the case of the lesbian couple as well.
In this case, you may be concerned that your kids will be exposed to open displays of same-sex affection while spending time at the neighbors' house. This would be a good time to apply the "no-playing-in-the-house-without-asking-me-first" rule. Another way to counteract such influences is to model healthy attitudes toward sexuality in your own home. When it comes to sex-related issues, you are your child's best and most effective teacher.
Instead of merely sheltering your kids, then, put out an effort to train and educate them. Work hard to give them an example of a strong marriage in action. Show them what it means for a man and a woman to relate to one another in mutual love and respect. Highlight in your word and actions the beauty of the differences between the sexes. Talk about God's design for marriage between a man and a woman. Explain that moms and dads are different, and that kids need both. Then, when they observe differences out in the larger world, they'll be able to come to you with their questions. When that happens, you'll be able to tell them exactly why a household with "two mommies" doesn't fit God's plan for the family. Use kid-friendly language and age-appropriate explanations. Be honest, open, and direct. And don't overload them with information they haven't requested. Let the conversation flow naturally.
Meanwhile, you can still help your kids find ways to make this family feel loved, accepted, and welcome in the neighborhood. Remember that this is yet another area in which parental example speaks louder than words. Take the lead by inviting the lesbian couple and their kids over for dinner. Prepare a hot meal and deliver it to their front door. Look for chances to chat with them over the garden fence. Help them out in practical ways. At the same time, practice hospitality and turn your home into a place where all of the neighborhood kids enjoy "hanging out." Live with integrity and model genuine Christian charity in front of your kids. You'll be surprised at what a difference it will make.
If you feel a need to discuss these ideas at greater length with a member of our staff, don't hesitate to give us a call at your convenience. Our counselors would be more than happy to discuss your situation with you over the phone. Contact our Counseling department for a free consultation.
Desert Stream Ministries