Speaking with your kids about an impending divorce is scary enough; adding to that the news that your sexual orientation is changing and the stress involved doubles. If there is no burning need to tell your children about your coming out, take the time to come to your own place of self-acceptance before discussing it with them. It’s important that when you decide to share your new orientation with them, you are not speaking from a place of shame and guilt. If shame comes through in your communication, you’re sending a message to them that it is wrong or embarrassing. It’s best to take on your own internalized homophobia and find someone who can help you process your thoughts and feelings before involving the kids.
When speaking with your kids about this sensitive topic, give them only age-appropriate information. There’s no need to burden them with information they don’t need or haven’t asked for. If the initial reaction you get from them is negative, be respectful of their feelings and concerns and let them know you deserve the same. Leaving the door open with them to come to you anytime they need support is important for them to hear. Of course, it’s always easier if you’ve had the kind of relationship with your kids that was already open and honest, but it’s never too late to start.
I believe adolescence is the hardest time for a child to deal with a life-changing situation, like when a parent shares that they are changing their sexual orientation. Adolescent children are in the midst of their own budding sexuality and it may be especially difficult for them to process your situation during this time. Quite often, even though your child loves you and may want to accept that things are changing, they are often more worried about how their friends and peers are going to react. The acceptance of these groups is SO important to young teens. They need your understanding and patience now more than ever.
The fear your children may feel when dealing with your coming out often results in them experiencing angry emotions; this can make it difficult to speak with them. It’s important, however, that they know you will always be there to make them feel safe and loved. To help my children feel safe during school hours, I spoke with my kid’s principals and guidance counselors about what was happening in my life. They were very understanding and kept a special eye on my kids, which was comforting to me. I recommend getting a qualified therapist for help in confronting some of the difficult challenges with this age group.
From a mom’s perspective, it hurts to feel as though your children want to keep you a secret from others due to the change in your sexual orientation. Where in the past they may have brought friends home and been fine with having you be around them, your children now may choose to avoid the situation and decide to spend their time at someone else’s house. There can also be a lot of anxiety for them at school events when you attend with your same-sex partner. From your kids’ perspective, your attendance could expose them to possible homophobic taunts when you’re gone. My best advice here is to respect what they are going through. Just like it can take years for one of us to “come out”, it can also take years for your child to process the major changes taking place. Fortunately, as they ultimately form their own values and become their own person, they come around in time.
For many women who redefine their sexual orientation later in life, it will feel a lot like experiencing your own second adolescence. It’s hard to be going through a period when you feel SO alive for (maybe) the first time in your life and on the flip side, are worried about your children and how they will accept you. Just remember that children’s biggest fear with any family break-up is how it’s going to affect them–what will happen now? As with any child going through their parent’s divorce, they need to know you love them and that what is happening is not their fault. They especially need to feel you will always be there when they need you.
It is my opinion that in spite of and because of the challenges THEY faced with my coming out journey, my kids are more accepting and empathetic young adults. Am I sorry that there had to be pain for any of the people I love? Absolutely. But I did the best I could and I’m sure you will too.