As a mother of three grown children, I’ve fielded some tough questions.
Why do people act mean?
Can I get a tail for my birthday?
If Mrs. Jones was “all ears” when she heard the news, should we rush her to the doctor?
Since the recent airing of a same-sex marriage on the children’s cartoon Arthur, several people have asked me: How can I explain GAY to my kids? Many parents are anxious, worried, confused how to approach “such a difficult topic” with their young children. Everyone can take a deep breath and settle down. In fact, this isn’t difficult at all.
This is Joe and Ann.
This is Sylvia and Marie.
This is Bob and Alan.
When couples visited our home, I introduced them to my children. The kids responded: “Nice to meet you,” shook hands, and that was that. If the parents are matter of fact, then the kids will simply accept it. If the parents create a hyped-up drama, the kids will respond accordingly. They’ll follow your lead. Acceptance or drama —your choice.
As your children grow older, they may have more questions. The most important Rule Of Thumb is to answer what they ask, no more no less.
Those are two boys! How can they be a couple?
Any two people can be a couple. If they love each other like Mommy and Daddy love each other, then they’re a couple.
Can they make babies and have a family?
Sure. There are lots of ways to make babies and have a family.
(Your children will become overwhelmed with information if you launch into eggs and sperm, fallopian tubes and testes, ejaculation and insemination, surrogacy and adoption. When your kids are ready for specifics, they’ll ask.)
What’s the best kind of couple? Two boys? Two girls? A boy and a girl?
A couple with a lot of love is the best kind of couple.
I’ve been following the negative reactions to Mr. Ratburn (Arthur’s teacher) and Patrick (an aardvark who owns a chocolate store), and to their marriage. Alabama Public Television banned the episode, which I find jaw-dropping. Some suggested a TRIGGER WARNING — a same-sex marriage RED ALERT — an urgent call to have a PARENTAL UNIT on hand to answer questions.
Actually, I always encourage parents to be available when their kids are watching any television show. Kids have questions, comments, ideas, and these moments provide opportunities for open communication. But there’s no need to hold up a cue card: IS ANYONE SPIRALING INTO ORGAN FAILURE SECONDARY TO MR. RATBURN’S SAME-SEX MARRIAGE? Honestly, your kids are much more likely to have a question about a rat-aardvark marriage than a man-man marriage.
Like many cartoons, Arthur is filled with Weird — charming Weird and delightful Weird. Animals who dress in clothes, who go to school, who walk on their hind legs, who talk. Yep, plenty of weird. However, regarding the wedding — the couple walking down the aisle, the joy in the room, the exuberant dancing — it’s a marriage, and there’s nothing weird about marriage. Mr. Ratburn and Patrick are deeply in love, committed and devoted. They’re choosing to spend their lives together.
How wonderful that so many children were invited to share their happiness.
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If you’re in the process of growing comfortable with LGBTQ+, if you’re open to becoming more accepting, then here are a few posts to help.
“All Love Is Created Equal”
“Let’s Open The Conversation”
Amy Kaufman Burk is a therapist-turned-author in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Amy’s first novel, Hollywood High: Achieve The Honorable, follows Caroline Black through tenth grade, in a school with students who speak over forty languages. The story deals with homophobic bullying, racial and economic diversity, and the power of friendship. Amy’s second novel, Tightwire, follows a fictional psychotherapy from three perspectives — the rookie therapist scrambling to build a treatment — the patient struggling to heal — the supervisor guiding the young therapist through the complex emotional terrain of her first case. This novel was written in support of same-sex parents, to fight the stigma of mental issues, and with deep respect for the human capacity to heal. Both novels have been on Amazon’s Top Rated List for LGBT Literary Fiction.
Amy’s novels are available on Amazon.