What to Do
In this case, what you do has more weight then what you say to your toddler:
Showing acceptance of your family member's relationship will model this for your toddler as they get older. It goes without saying, but include photos of your gay/lesbian relative and his or her partner in collections of family photos around your house, and be sure to include that relative in gatherings, activities, and regular phone calls as you would any other member of your family.
Definitely do use the words gay and lesbian in your vocabulary around your toddler. This will send the message to your toddler that these are common words that are OKAY to use and ask questions about when they get older. This will open the door to later conversations when your child may ask questions about your relative's sexual orientation.
Expand your child's exposure to other diverse families. It makes sense to introduce your toddler to families headed by moms, dads, and single parents. Even consider going to a gay and lesbian pride march with your relative if they attend. You are teaching your child that families come in all variations, and there their uncle or aunt certainly won't stand out as much!
Let books provide teachable moments. No matter who is in your own family, there are several good books for young kids and school age children (see Resources, below) that you can introduce to your child as they get older to answer their questions and open up conversations about gay and lesbian family members. As your child ages, he will undoubtedly have more questions and better understand family relations and different types of love: Many of these books will help be a springboard for those talks.
- A good book to talk about diversity of different people: It's Okay to Be Different by Todd Parr
- This reading list on Amazon offers great info on talking to your children about gay and lesbian family members and friends
- Here's how to answer "What Does Gay Mean?" from Mental HealthAmerica
- PFLAG (Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) offers tips for being supportive
This information is intended to be a conversation starting point and not to replace consultation with a mental health professional. Knowing your child the way you do, adjust or edit this script and these recommendations to meet his or her needs and comprehension. If you have concerns about your toddler, contact your pediatrician and request a referral for a mental health professional who specializes in work with young children. Click here to find help for working with your child through this and other touchy topics.