Before I was interviewed by Emma Barnett on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour about gay parenting, I was asked to supply 10 pieces of advice to any gay dad about coming out to his kids. I thought I would share this with you:
- Don’t let other people’s opinions decide when you should tell your children. You know them better than they do. Bear in mind that there will never be a right There will always be reasons not to tell them, but the main thing in this, is them. You must approach it in a manner, and at a time, that is most suitable for their age, their understanding, and their ability to deal with things afterwards.
- Give them space to think about what has happened. Don’t badger them, but gently remind them every-now-and-then that they can talk to you at any time.
- Do get mum on board. Ideally, it should be the same message they are hearing from both of you, but if the relationship with your ex-wife is in a bad place and the children are blissfully unaware of why mum and dad split-up, it won’t help the situation if explaining about your sexuality causes even more friction and up-set.
- Do not feel you have to tell the school. If you do so, it must be with the approval of your son or daughter and with their full understanding of the implications. They might need some adult intervention and support at school, and the fact that the teachers will keep a closer eye out for any bullying, might help them feel safer.
- My advice to mine, was not to tell school friends, because a best friend today can so easily become a sworn enemy tomorrow. If they want to tell people, it is better to tell those they have long-term friendships with outside of school – a cousin, an anti-natal ‘sibling’, your best friend’s children.
- When you tell your children, do so in an adult manner. Don’t beat about the bush. Explain that you are happy to answer any questions or concerns they might have. Don’t rush the moment or fill quietness with more words, or bombard them with your whole life-story. Let it sink-in and settle slowly. Of course, and this really should go without saying, make sure they know that you still love them very much, that you are still the same old dad, and say it with lots of hugs and kisses.
- How to broach the subject? Find a time and space which will not be interrupted, and which they can’t remove themselves from in the immediate moment of shock. You will have been building up to this moment for weeks, months, possibly years, but when it comes to the point of opening your mouth and speaking those words ‘I am gay’, it feels impossible. Start by saying, ‘Before (we sit down to eat/drop you at mum’s – insert appropriate moment), there’s something I need to tell you …’ Once you’ve said those few innocuous words, there is quite literally no going back – before you know it you’ll be out.
- Try not to fall apart too much during your talk. They will need you to be strong and they won’t want to see you hurt and distraught. It is obviously a very emotional thing, but make sure that by the end, you are dad again – strong and able to cope.
- If you are not coping well with your new-found situation, it might be better not to tell them yet. Wait a while, gather your strength, know who you are in your own mind, and then invite them in.
- Above all, carry on as normal. Normality and security is what children want.
BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour Interview