How to explain ‘gay marriage’ to your kids
A PRACTICAL GUIDE FOR MUMS & DADS
This guide is suitable for all; from the mildly muddled to the bigly bigoted. So take heart, you are among friends.
According to recent news reports, billions of people around the world are currently lying awake at night wondering whether (and, if so, how) they will have to explain to their children why two people of the same sex who love one another are allowed to marry.
Many parents find the notion to be unspeakably awful, and believe that allowing same-sex couples to marry is a precursor to the apocalypse, or the complete collapse of civil society. I mean, will people still hold doors open for oneanother? Will they say good morning to complete strangers in elevators? It’s all looking increasingly under threat (and if you live in a big city, you will already have said goodbye to these common courtesies long ago).
Anyway, we digress already. The fact is that many people would simply rather not think or talk about this new fangled same-sex marriage business at all.
TIP: You may be aware that CIVIL PARTNERSHIPS have been around for several years, across many countries. You might not have given this much thought, as it’s unlikely to have affected you in any way whatsoever. In fact, if you think about it, just for a second, you might notice that the world hasn’t ended, and society did not unravel at the seams. Phew! So far so good!
But now you’re no doubt worried that allowing same-sex couples to actually get MARRIED (giving them the same rights as heterosexual couples) is a step too far, a step in the wrong direction. You’re worried that it will inevitably result in the complete ruin of civil society.
“Why won’t anyone think of the children?” you cry helplessly, “How on earth will parents like me explain all this to our kids, and why should we have to, and why should our precious little cherubs even have to deal with all this at their tender young age?!”
Well, don’t worry. Help is now at hand. This guide will help you navigate these radical changes which are going on all around us.
The dreaded question
So, the day will soon come (if it hasn't already) when your child turns to you and hits you with it.
The dreaded question:
“Mummy/Daddy, how come those two men (or two women) are getting MARRIED?”
What to do
Given that you’re reading this guide, this is one question you may have been dreading for quite some time. Therefore, you may be susceptible to experiencing one or more brief but alarming physical symptoms.
First, your heart may sink, then it may begin to thump quite heavily and quickly. Your palms and forehead may become sweaty and/or you may notice your breathing becoming unusually shallow.
In extreme cases, you may even experience some mild dizziness or nausea — but don’t worry, these are all common reactions amongst adults of a certain age and disposition, and all of these symptoms will quickly pass.
And when you feel your symptoms abating, just remember the following acronym, and I promise that you WILL get through this.
C P R
The acronym you need to remember, and which you must brand into your mind right here and now with a red hot poker is: “C.P.R.”
‘C’ stands for COMPOSURE.
Take a moment, and compose yourself.
Take a deep breath.
Remember, the world hasn’t ended.
That’s good. Deep breath in for the slow count of three.
Now out for five.
Now one more. Do it with me. You’re doing great.
Deep breath in for one… two… three…
Aaaaaand out for one… two… three… four… five.
Take your time.
TIP: The sound you hear is your heart beating quicker than usual — not the thumping hooves of the four horsemen of the apocalypse. You CAN get through this. And you WILL get through this.
The next letter to remember is ‘P’.
P means that you must sound POSITIVE.
Once you’ve composed yourself, and taken some deep breaths, aim to summon a POSITIVE inflection in your voice, ideally tinged with casual indifference (American readers may refer to this as ‘breeziness’). Think of positivie memories of your childhood or some recent all-inclusive holiday you enjoyed.
Excellent. You’re a natural.
Now. We’re at ‘R’ already. You’re doing soooo well. You should be very proud of yourself.
So. Let’s focus for this last part: R.
R simply stands for RECITE.
It means that you should recite the following sentence to your inquisitive child in answer to their earlier question about why two people of the same sex might want / be allowed to get ‘actually’ married.
TIP: In practice, the next thing you try to say may get stuck in your throat, so, to prepare yourself for this, you may want to have a little cough at this point. Oh, and don’t worry if you still feel a bit faint — it might like the world is spinning faster on its axis than usual, but it isn’t.
So, clear your throat. Here we go:
“Because they are two grown-ups who are very much in love with each other, darling, so they’ve decided to make a life-long commitment to one another by getting married”.
Well done. You’ve done it!
You have successfully navigated this difficult issue without harming either yourself or your child.
Now, if you continue to be a good parent (as I’m sure you are) your child will grow up to be a well adjusted, happy, wonderful, open minded, respectful human being.
Other possible applications of ‘CPR’
Once you have used the above 3-step CPR technique, you will be able to confidently deploy it in response to a number of other marriage-related questions which you may have personally struggled with in the past. Questions such as:
- “Those people have different skin colour, how come they’re married to one another?”
- “Why is that young woman married to that really old man?”
- “How come that disabled person is married to that ‘non-disabled’ person?”
…and so on.
It really will serve you well in so many situations. Situations that equal marriage, or ‘same sex marriage’, or simply ‘marriage’ won’t really have impacted at all, and which you may already have successfully navigated without the aid of a guide such as this. If so, give yourself a pat on the back.
Your child may one day ask you about divorce, e.g. “If marriage is a life-long commitment, how come you and Daddy/Mummy are getting a divorce?”
Ouch. This is a tricky subject, and a separate brief guide may follow. In the meantime, I suggest that you simply draw on your personal experiences, or those of your family and friends.
Look especially at marriages between a man and a woman; there will be plenty of divorces to use as examples among your family, friends and colleagues, so just choose the most appropriate one(s).
TIP: Remember, since they will be able to actually marry, same-sex couples may eventually get divorced too, so try not to judge — for every same-sex divorce there will be a thousand examples of heterosexual divorces to dwell on.
Dealing with follow-up questions from your child
In the vast majority of cases, once the above steps have been followed, you are likely to find that your child will respond with casual acceptance and/or indifference.
For example, they might respond with “Huh, OK”, or “Whatever, can I go and play”, etc.
If they do have any follow up queries, try to deal with them in the same spirit as the advice you have just given your child whilst using the CPR technique, and you will be fine.
Remember, it may seem odd that other people have the same options, rights and freedoms as you do, but dignity and equality are for everyone, not just people who look and think like you.
You may find it hard to believe, but this even applies to people who were born in a different town, country, or even a different continent from you. And even people of different religions and income brackets.
You might even find that your children make friends with children who are from far flung places, or whose parents are different from you and your spouse in some way.
You might find it hard to believe, but this is in fact a great thing. If you’re unsure about that, or find it impossible to believe, try to seek out some more self help guides, or, ideally, invest in some one-on-one therapy.
Oh no, what if my child NEVER asks me about same-sex marriage…!?!
It may be that your child never asks you the big, dreaded question, in which case you may spend several years living in constant fear of them springing it on you at any moment.
If this is the case, try not to worry. There may be a number of reasons why your child has not asked this question; for example, they may not have noticed that ‘same sex’ couples are so very different from ‘straight’ couples and/or they may not have realised they’re supposed to worry about it.
The important thing to remember is… stay calm.
You don’t need to live in fear.
You are strong enough to deal with this issue head on if and when it arises.
The pre-emptive strike
If you find that it becomes an elephant in the room and you simply can’t sleep from the worry of being ambushed by this dreaded issue, there is another way. This may be particularly helpful to you if you’re constantly gripped by the fear that your child will ask the dreaded question at an inappropriate moment, or in case they ask someone else about it (for example a teacher, a neighbour, or Google).
You can choose to manage the situation proactively. You simply launch a ‘pre-emptive strike’, so to speak.
To launch your pre-emptive strike, just think back to the above training and apply exactly the same principles.
Pick your moment — you’ll know a good time to speak to your child — and then simply think: “C.P.R.”
Step 1: Compose yourself.
Step 2: Summon a Positive, ‘breezy’ inflection in your voice, and
Step 3: Recite the following:
“Oh, by the way darling, have you noticed how sometimes it’s not just mummies and daddies who get married? Have you noticed that sometimes two daddies, or sometimes two mummies get married?”
Maybe wait for a sign they’ve heard you and aren’t just pretending to listen to you so they can watch the YouTube clip of Peppa Pig right to the bitter end….
Then go on:
“Some children at school might have two daddies, or two mummies, or just one daddy, or just one mummy. Their mummies and daddies may be much older or younger than your mummy and daddy. Or they might be different in some way to me and Mummy/Daddy. They might even be differnt to anyone else you’ve met yet.
That’s because all families are different from all other families in some way, and that’s nice isn’t it?
Differences are what make every family special; and because everyone’s different, everyone’s special! Which is lovely isn’t it?
Just always remember that you’re very much loved by me, and your Mummy/Daddy, and you always will be.
If you’ve got anything you want to talk to us about, we’re always here for you.”
A bit long winded I’ll grant you. But you can bet this will be followed by an indifferent shrug from your child, a request for a biscuit, or for you to leave them alone, etc — but don’t worry, it’ll percolate into their young mind, and you may just have set them on the right path for life!
I hope this has dispelled any notion you may have had that same-sex couples should be deprived of the right to marry, just because you find it too tricky to explain it to your kids.
Now you have read this guide you are armed with the answers that will help you deal with this seemingly thorny issue of explaining ‘same-sex marriage’ (often simply referred to as ‘marriage’), whenever it arises.
I hope you enjoyed it, and if you know anyone who might benefit from it, feel free to pass it on.
Alternatively, here’s a ‘speed read’ version with gifs in case that’s more their thing.
Note from the author
These guides are brought to you in association with common sense, dignity and mutual respect.