All the recent news about "coming out" and "transitioning" has prompted a conversation I wasn't quite ready to have with my 8-year-old. What do I say?

First, take a deep breath. When you're in unfamiliar territory, it's easy to overexplain and complicate things.

At 8, your child most likely is curious about something he or she heard and probably isn't seeking an in-depth analysis. Try to gauge what they know, and dig a little bit to determine want they want to find out before you launch into an explanation. Ask "What did you hear?"; "What do you think?"; and "Why do you think that?" Then you can figure out how much you want to -- and need to -- say.

Meanwhile, work toward two other efforts: developing media-literacy skills (for yourself and your kid) and asserting and reaffirming your own values so the messages your kids hear about life are yours, not just the media's.

On the media-literacy front, train yourself to think critically about the information you see and hear. Take the Caitlyn Jenner story. Her transition sparked heated conversation nationwide about gender and the challenges and courageousness of coming out as transgender. Talk to your kids about how the media turned her into a cultural icon and lightning rod for debate -- literally overnight. Also, talk about gender itself. Ask questions such as, "what does the media teach you about how boys and girls should behave?", "should boys and girls be treated differently based on their genders?", and "is it OK for boys and girls to act in ways that are traditionally viewed as typical of the opposite gender?" In early adolescence (around 11-13) when kids are developing their own sexual identity, consider watching movies and TV shows that defy rigid gender stereotypes. This will help them realize that their gender shouldn't be a hindrance to anything they want to accomplish.

As for your family's values, every family is different. The conversation is between you and your kid. But remember to be civil and understanding. In this day and age when everyone can post comments online -- and news shows encourage argument to increase ratings -- things can degrade rapidly into name-calling, stereotyping, and hate speech unless parents model respect.

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Comments

Adult written by Sandra D..

Wow, um, ouch. First of all, that's a little intolerant? They're still people- if the media is to reflect the world we live in today, then I think it's perfectly reasonable to have LGBT+ characters in our movies, books, etc. As to whether children are INFLUENCED by that... darling, children are impressionable. If you don't want them watching things with LGBT characters, you control the TV, but don't bar people/character who identify as anything other than straight from the media in general. My daughter identifies as asexual, and I can say that she's been happier since she's come out as such. She told me she was uncomfortable identifying as straight, even though she was attracted to males, though wasn't interested in any sort of intercourse. She first discovered the term asexual in a book she was reading and kept the issue to herself for two years before telling anyone. Afterward, she told me she was very happy to have found something that made her feel like she knew "the piece of me that never felt quite aligned is in the right place after all." What I'm saying is that it's important for kids to have exposure to LGBT+ characters growing up because if they begin to think differently, and all they have ever known is "boys like girls and vice versa, and they get married and have babies," they'll begin to feel alienated because that doesn't work for them. I've been very fortunate in that my daughter was open with me about this. She felt like something was off, that "there was some program not running inside [her] head" until she found that she wasn't the only one who felt the way she did. The only thing she regrets is not having known about it sooner, so she could have felt "wrong" for less time.
Kid, 9 years old

Hi! I’ve been posting on CSM for 2 years and I think it’s definitely important to tell kids who are at least 9+ about the LGBTQ community. Lately coming out has become an issue among tweens and teens because they’re scared to tell friends, and this is a topic that should be raised if you’re ready to have a deep conversation that you know your mature kid is ready for. You don’t need to necessarily go deep into the details talking about this, but your kid should at least know what it is and that you are always there for them if they want to talk about something like this if they are transgender, gay, or bisexual. This is a helpful post.
Kid, 11 years old

Hi! I think you should definitely explain about the LGBTQ+ community. Tell your child about this, but no need to explain everything about the community. Explain what transitioning is, explain that it's just when someone isn't comfortable in their body, and they prefer to be in the opposite genders body. Make sure to mention about how it's ok when there are 2 woman holding hands, or 2 men holding hands. Explain that there is a lot to learn about this and as they get older they will understand much better!
Teen, 15 years old written by ElioElioElio

I think its important to properly answer your child's questions when they come up. Its part of their development and their perceptions of the world around them. The earlier they learn about the LGBTQ+ community in a healthy and age appropriate manner, the less of a chance that they will be homophobic or a bigot in any way down the path.
Kid, 11 years old

If you expose the LGBTQ+ community to your child at a young age, they are less likely to be a bigot.
Kid, 12 years old

I think that you should teach your kid that it is ok for someone to be a part of the LGBTQ community and to not treat them differently than a heterosexual person
Kid, 11 years old

I think it’s better to talk to them about the LGBTQ+ community. Children who have never learned about the community will be most likely confused and disgusted when they see people part of the community on the streets, Internet, etc.
Teen, 16 years old written by jadynn

As everyone has said in the comments, tell your kids from a young age about the LGBTQA+ community because the younger they are, the more normal it will be for them as they grow up. My parents taught me about it around the age of 7 or 8 and growing up it was not some weird topic but a conversation we could have around the dinner table because of how normal my parents made it for me. Telling them will allow for your child to grow up more accepting of different types of people.
Teen, 13 years old written by Senpai666

Hi. I am going to say this until I am blue in the face, and I will repeat it until I am bluer. As a Pansexual and Gender Fluid teen, I find that people make a huge deal about LGBTQ+ people and try to make homosexuality and being transgender sound normal, but are really alienating anyone who falls under the LGBTQ+ spectrum. WE ARE NORMAL PEOPLE, TREAT US THAT WAY. Make same-sex and gender diverse marriage normal, not 'special' and don't see trans/nonbinary people as abnormal. And if you don't know someone's pronoun, please ask (politely) and use the pronoun you are told the person uses!
Teen, 13 years old written by 3rdsmolbean

TELL THEM TELL THEM TELL THEM I can not express to you how important it is to tell them about that kind of stuff When I was small and I had a crush on a girl for the first time I had no idea that was even possible I was really confused and I ended up getting really depressed and stuff
Teen, 13 years old written by Fluffycatmcfluff

3rdsmolbean, At my school, I am currently interested in a girl. However I don't know how to tell anyway anyway- I'm a christian- so I shouldn't like her, but I do. I was depressed for a while because I felt different, and that I would be unaccepted or persecuted. I still haven't told anyone (save for my crush) but I might one day. I hope you aren't still depressed anyway- you are who you are and that's awesome. So yes, TELL THEM. Don't make them feel isolated and alone.
Kid, 12 years old

I'm Christian too and even though people commonly think that this religion forbids being homosexual or transgender, there is nothing in the bible saying that you cant be. And remember, Fod will still love you no matter what!
Teen, 14 years old written by carlymarie

I would just tell your kid that some people love differently than others. If you are against or for LGBT tell them why in a postive way. I would also include that just because someone else believes or loves differently than you and you might disagree it doesn't mean you need to be unkind or fight with them. Tolerance and respect of opinions while not agreeing is important to teach! Good luck!
Kid, 12 years old

Why should talking about being a queer be uncomfortable in any way? Children SHOULD NOT be kept under rocks and hidden from the LGBTQIA+ community. They aren't "different" from us in any way, unlike some people say. If a girl likes a girl, then why does it matter? If a girl was born as a boy, their transition to being who they want to be should be accepted. If a person decides they aren't interested in pursuing a sexual relationship whatsoever, that is absolutely fine. Introducing this to your kids and presenting it as a normal thing from an early age is the best thing to do, and lessens the chance of the child being homophobic when they are older.
Teen, 13 years old written by yeahImaBrony164

I am a homosexual myself and I honestly think should just say ask when you're older. Maybe it's a good idea to walk over to them later and talk about homosexuality, but when they ask... it's safer to say nothing.
Teen, 13 years old written by hernameishamilton

The problem with that is then they grow up not knowing they have options. Then if they realize that they like the same sex, they are left in the dark not knowing what to do. Personally I think that you should just say that some times boys like boys, girls like girls, or someone likes both genders. that way it doesn't seem like a big deal and your kid is aware that they have options
Kid, 11 years old

personally, i fully support the LGBTQIA+ community. and even if you personally don't, you shouldn't force that onto your kids. a lot of younger kids think it's weird, but i think you should let them know that they should form their own opinion instead of taking your's or the media's. a lot of my family members don't understand the idea of being transgender, but i still support it.