Can you give me some helpful tips on discussing the issue of homosexuality with my children? We have five kids ranging in age from preschool to adolescence. With gay relationships and same-sex marriage becoming increasingly prevalent and visible in our culture, it's a subject that's bound to come up sooner or later. I want to know how to respond most effectively when it does. Do you have any suggestions?
Yes. And we'd like to preface our remarks by commending you on your determination to take a proactive approach. As you've already observed, it's becoming difficult to avoid the topic of homosexuality. The way the culture is going, we suspect it will be virtually impossible before too long. Under the circumstances, you're wise to equip yourself for this conversation before the kids decide to initiate it.
You probably don't need to be told that this is a sensitive subject. Much of the information you might want to share with a teenager would be completely inappropriate for a preschooler or school-age child. Since your kids are all over the map agewise, we'll organize our thoughts and recommendations accordingly. Clearly, you'll want to arm yourself with one set of answers for the younger children and another for those who are on the verge of young adulthood. To simplify matters, it might be a good idea to develop a basic response suitable for "general audiences" and then mix in additional age-appropriate details as you move up the ladder of maturity.
It's important with every age-group to begin on a positive note. Instead of focusing on problems and aberrations right out of the box, start by helping your kids get a firm grasp on God's original plan for human sexuality and every other aspect of His creation. You can do this with the little ones by telling them a four-part story:
- Creation: God made the world good and designed everything in it to function a certain way. Among other things, He created people in His image and separated them into male and female. Both boys and girls (and men and women) are good, but they're different.
- Fall: Human sin, disobedience, and rebellion have marred God's original design and thrown everything out of whack. As a result, confusion, pain, and death have entered the world.
- Redemption: Because of the fall, every man, woman, and child on earth is "broken" in one way or another. Each and every one of us needs God's healing grace. Each and every one of us needs a Savior. The good news is that Jesus' life, death, burial, and resurrection bring us salvation and freedom from sin.
- Glorification: Our future union with Christ is portrayed in Scripture as a wedding feast, where we will be united with Him as a bride is united with her husband. At that time God will wipe away every tear from the eyes of those who have followed Him. What's more, He will fix all of the brokenness resulting from the fall.
With preschoolers, there's no need to talk to your children about specific sexual activity. They're not equipped to understand it. Furthermore, we'd suggest waiting until the kids are older before introducing terms such as "homosexuality," "heterosexuality," "gay," "straight," or "LGBT." You can underscore the male-female aspect of God's design by telling them about Adam and Eve or the animals who came into Noah's ark two-by-two (both a mommy and a daddy animal). You can also teach from real life by talking about your own marriage and explaining how the union of man and woman is a special gift from God.
With school-age children, you can further point out that there are different kinds of "love" – for instance, our "love" or liking for food, toys, material things, and activities; our love for friends, family, and relatives; and, of course, our love for God. Help them grasp the idea that marital love is unique, and that its purposes and characteristics are distinct from those of every other kind of "love." Explain that, in the beginning, God separated humanity into male and female and that marriage brings those two components together. Tell them that marriage unites a couple in a special way, and that this is why sexual expression is intended to take place only between a husband and wife. Point out that this union often leads to family by producing new life in the form of children. Open up God's Word and show them that marriage, in the Bible, is the most common symbol of our relationship with God.
Teens, of course, are capable of dealing with more abstract concepts. When talking with them, it would be helpful to put all of this into the context of a discussion about competing worldviews: on the one hand, the biblical, Judeo-Christian worldview, which states that God created us and designed us for a purpose; and, on the other hand, the worldview of popular contemporary culture, which says that there is no God, that "reality" is whatever I want it to be, and that meaning, value, and purpose are essentially matters of personal preference and choice. According to this second worldview, the individual is free to "customize" sexuality, sexual morality, and marriage in any way he or she sees fit. By way of contrast, the biblical worldview asserts that God's design is eternally valid, that His plan for human sexuality matters, and that marriage, as the union of one man and one woman, is unique among human relationships, not least because it forms a complete reproductive system – something same-sex marriages can never do.
What should you do if circumstances unexpectedly thrust you into the middle of a conversation about homosexuality? Say, for instance, you're on vacation, visiting another city, and suddenly find yourselves in the middle of a "Gay Pride" celebration, complete with rainbow banners, booths and displays, and same-sex couples openly kissing and holding hands? Or imagine that one of your children overhears some other kids talking about "Gays" and "Lezzies" at school and comes home asking a lot of awkward questions. What then?
To begin with, we'd advise you to avoid saying something like, "Those men are gay. Gay is when two guys like each other." That can be terribly confusing for both boys and girls. After all, kids need to develop friendships and strong bonds with youngsters of the same sex during their developmental years. Not only is this kind of "liking" completely normal, it's also essential to the process of identifying with one's own sex. As an alternative, we recommend that you remind your children of everything they've been taught about God's original design and the fall of man. Then you can add, "Not everyone believes and follows God's plan for marriage. Sometimes two women will act like they are married, but they can't really be husband and wife because they are both women. Sin has confused them. They need God's help and redemption."
Things can get more complicated with older kids, especially when they become personally acquainted with people – relatives or friends at school – who identify as "gay" or homosexual. There's an art to successfully navigating situations of this nature. It's a question of balancing everything you've taught your children about sexuality and marriage with genuine, Christ-like sensitivity to and compassion for the individuals concerned. It might involve saying something like, "We need to find ways to love Uncle Mike in spite of the fact that he's not following God's plan," or "How do you think that we, as a family, can help Aubrey understand that God cares about her? How can we walk with her through this confusing period in her life?" Among other things, this is a way to get your children involved in some deeply meaningful Christian outreach and ministry.
For more information, we recommend that you take a look at, an online booklet prepared by our staff specifically for individuals who have questions like yours. If you'd like to discuss the matter personally with a member of our staff, call Focus on the Family's Counseling department for a free consultation.
God's Design for Sex