Gay and Lesbian Step-Parents
Gay and lesbian step-parents are becoming more common in the UK and non-traditional families are no longer a taboo. However, step-parenting is very challenging, while being gay or lesbian makes it even more challenging.
Gay and lesbian parents who have come from a heterosexual relationship often face resentful ex-spouses or partners who may use their sexual orientation against them in court and custody arrangements. It also isn’t unusual for them to try to influence the extended family and family friends, and even children. Not only does this increase the tension and stress for everyone involved, especially for children but it can also seriously jeopardise the parent-child relationship and the newly attached same-sex couple.
Unfortunately, there are no guidelines to follow when ending a heterosexual relationship and entering same-sex relationship. But all who went through the process stress the importance of communication, honesty and openness with everyone involved and above all, with ex-partners and children.
Children react to breakups and divorces highly emotionally. Feelings of sadness, anger and fear are nearly universal to all children, especially if the ex-partners kept their differences aside in front of their kids. But for children of gay and lesbian parents, there is another reality they need to accept – their parent’s sexual orientation which can make them even more confused. Again, communication, honesty and openness are crucial to help children understand what has happened, what is sexual orientation and what it isn’t as well as how it can affect their lives. And yes, they should also be warned about potential negative comments from their schoolmates and even adults.
Older kids are usually expected to accept a gay or lesbian step-parent sooner and more easily but it is actually just the opposite. They often refuse to accept their gay or lesbian step-parent and may even develop negative feelings towards their biological parent. This, however, is not unusual for heterosexual relationships either. Kids often worry that the new partner will “steal” their parent away from them and in case of homosexual relationships, they may worry that they will also become homosexual. Therefore it is of key importance to be understanding and above all, patient as it is not easy for kids to accept that mum and dad are no longer together and that there is a new person in their parent’s and their life.
Not Coming Out?
Given that coming out can complicate many lives, some gay and lesbian parents decide not to live together with their partners and present them to their kids as friends. Not coming out, however, often takes a toll on the relationship between the partners, while the children cannot benefit from having two parents taking care of them.