You haven’t told your children you are a trans admirer because it’s not their business. But now that you’ve found yourself in a serious relationship, you know you need to tell them.
They’re going to meet her soon, and they’ll have questions. The situation is giving you anxiety, so you keep putting it off. That’s not fair to the woman you love. It’s also not fair to the kids, who might benefit from knowing Dad is in a happy and loving relationship with a wonderful woman.
Here’s how to deal with the big reveal.
Don’t assume the worst.
Whether you’re worried your kids won’t adjust easily, or fear they’ll offend your girlfriend with embarrassing questions or the wrong pronouns, try to lighten up.
Leo, 33, explains, “My five year old came right up to Janice and asked, ‘Are you a lady or a man?’ I felt so bad, but Janice told me later that it’s a totally valid question for a kid to ask, and she was happy to answer it.”
Honoring your kids’ curiosity will make it much easier for them to adjust. Young kids are highly adaptable and haven’t even had a chance, in many cases, to learn from society that there is something “amiss.”
Moody teens can be trickier—but remember, teens feel the world is coming to the end about most changes, and will feel the same way about any girlfriend.
Forget about the tactic “they probably won’t notice.”
Your kids and your partner all deserve full disclosure. While you may genuinely feel that “there’s nothing to tell,” your children will feel betrayed when they do find out, and they will take that out on their stepmother. Not fair.
That doesn’t always mean you have to make a big deal.
Sam, 40, found telling his twin tweens was a non-event. “I started out with the whole sit down on couch thing and when I was finished explaining, Carrie said, ‘Phew. I thought you were going to say Grandma died.’ Then they asked my girlfriend to take them for ice cream.”
Find the community resources you need.
If your kids do get upset, get them the help and support they need. Honor their emotions, questions and needs.
It may appear they are acting like the little bigots you never raised them to be. But they may be using the trans issue to mask real issues, like the divorce in general, the dog dying, or the fact that other kids are making fun of them. Try to get to the heart of the matter, and find the appropriate ways of dealing.
Resources that can help range from books for toddlers explaining gender, caring teachers, doctors, transgender advocacy groups, family therapy and divorce counselling for kids.
Affirm your girlfriend’s place, and affirm theirs too.
The kids need to know that their childish opinion and moody whims are useless weapons of manipulation. They need to know you stand by your partner.
They also need to know that nothing has changed in their importance to you. Kids come first, period, and that doesn’t mean they can bully you or your partner. It means you spend time with them, listen to them, cater to their needs, and carry on with business as usual in all issues that do and don’t concern your new girlfriend.
You don’t cancel Daddy-daughter dates or baseball practice just because you’d rather go on a hot date. You prioritize helping them with homework and being on hand when they have questions about girls or need a ride home from a party.
In most cases, when the kids see that you are still Dad, and see how you expect them to treat your partner, they will adjust easily.
As Vincent, 35, explains, “I was out of my mind with anxiety when my teen daughter started crying herself to sleep every night after I told her about June. I stood firm about my relationship, though, and I also went to Madison at night and just held her. It wasn’t long before she started asking for June instead during her crying jags over boys. We are all really close, and June even gets on well with Maddy’s mom!”