How to Talk With School-Age Children (6-12 years)
It’s also important to understand why your child wants to know. Maybe someone said the teacher was gay in a scary or prejudiced way, and your child is looking for reassurance. Maybe your child has come up with his or her own ideas about being gay, and wants to check them out with you. Again, listening first gives you a good idea of what your child wants to know and needs to know.
Children aged 11 to 12 can identify with others. They understand that they can have several feelings about something at the same time. Their bodies are changing, and many preteens are thinking about sex, even if they aren’t talking about it. Sexual curiosity and attraction to other kids of the same sex is a normal part of development. Just because your child has these feelings doesn’t mean he or she is gay.
Consider these situations:
You might discover your eleven-year-old daughter crying after school where she and her best friend were called "lesbos" because they were holding hands. Listen to what upsets her most. Does she know the meaning of the names she was called? Does she feel she should stop holding her friend’s hand? Is she scared of the other kids? After talking to your daughter, you may want to follow up with the school counselor or principal to express your concerns.
You might be called by your child’s school because your son or daughter is bullying and calling another child "fag," "queer," "sissy," "tomboy," or saying "gay" in a hostile manner. This is an important time to talk with your child and stress the value of treating everyone with tolerance and respect.
In general, the questions and the ideas become more complicated as kids grow older. "How do people who are gay have children?" "Why do some kids call others fags?" "Why do some girls act tough and dress like boys?" And, one that is often scary for parents, "Am I gay?" If your child is wondering if he or she is gay, it’s important to assure them that you love them, whatever their sexual orientation. It’s also important to let them know that they will eventually answer that question for themselves as they get older and learn more about their feelings.
Talk openly with your child and be as honest as possible. You can admit when you’re feeling embarrassed or don’t know the answers to your child’s questions. If you work together to find out the answer, you show your child that curiosity is nothing to be ashamed of.
"After the Matthew Shepard tragedy, I said that I hoped every minister in town would go into their church the next day and tell folks in their congregations that it is okay to be gay. As the Rabbi of the oldest and largest reform congregation in the Akron, Ohio area - and the father of two grown children and the grandfather of a wonderful nine-year-old - I realized that I had a responsibility to make my community an environment where the type of prejudice that killed Matthew Shepard is simply not tolerated."
Rabbi David Horowitz,
father of two,
grandfather of one,
"I talked with my seven year-old son about how a family is usually a mother and a father and children, but sometimes people of the same sex choose to make a life together. And they make a commitment and love and care for each other. And he accepted that and understood it."
mother of three,