By Jamie (Simkins) Rogers for YourTango.com
The other day, my husband and I had a frank discussion with my 8-year-old stepdaughter about equal rights and National LGBT Pride Month. I may be considered an "expert" over at YourTango.com, but I confess I rarely feel like one when it comes to parenting. That conversation, however, was something that I felt that I had done right. I was heartened by both her comfort with the topic and her earnest questions. Later that night, I found a homemade poster hanging on her wall featuring rainbows and equal signs and the words, "equal rights for all!" She also decided to donate three dollars per month from her allowance to the Human Rights Campaign. I have never felt more proud of my stepdaughter (and us, for children take their cues from adults on how to be in the world) than I did in that moment. Don't worry, not all of our parenting moments are so idyllic. The very next day featured gnashing of teeth and tearing of robes over the presence of tomatoes on her sandwich.
I digress, so let me get back on course. Thanks to President Obama, June means LGBT Pride Month in America. Are you wondering how best to talk about this topic with your kids? Below is what I call the "SHO approach." SHO can be used with kids to discuss any potentially difficult topic. The idea is to keep these conversations simple, honest, and open.
Keep it simple. You can't talk about LGBT Pride Month without first talking about what it means to be gay. We overthink things as parents, you know? There's no need for a wordy introduction to the history of homosexuality in America nor a graphic discourse on the mechanics of sex. Simply start things off by asking your kids what they know. This will also give you the opportunity to correct any misinformation. If you can talk to your kids about love and friendship, then you can talk to them about what it means to be gay. A great, simple explanation of what it means to be gay that satisfies most kids is something like, "when a man loves a man or when a woman loves a woman."
Be honest. Your kids will have questions — and don't be surprised if these questions are surprisingly deep or existential. My stepdaughter's most difficult question for us on the subject of equal marriage rights was, "Why can't gay people marry who they love?" We answered as simply and as honestly as we could, "Because some people are taught that being gay is wrong — and this month just happens to be LGBT Pride Month, which is when many people show in different ways, like in parades or in advertisements, that they are either proud of being gay or support the gay community."
Be open. Let your kids know that they can keep coming back to you with any questions that pop up. Being open also means keeping the conversation going. The older your kids get, the heavier the messaging so it's important to initiate check-ins in order to gauge what they know and what they are hearing from peers. At our house, we have found that the dinner table is a great place to discuss important issues.
Talking about LGBT Pride with your kids can be a deeply rewarding experience and it's not as scary as you might think! Just remember to keep it simple, honest, and open and you will do just fine. Happy LGBT Pride Month, friends!
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This article originally appeared on YourTango.com: "3 Tips For Teaching Your Kids About LGBT Pride Month"