How to talk to children about polyamory
The first blog in the Talking to Kids about Polyamorous series discussed the conditions that influence parents to tell their children whether or not they are polyamorous. This second blog in the series offers tips for parents who have decided to talk to their children, and the third provides tips on how to handle CNM information in children’s lives. The series ends with a fourth blog on how parents in CNM relationships can support their children’s social health.
You may want to talk to your child about your polyamorous relationship, especially if you have decided that: your child is old enough to understand; your partner is relevant in your child’s life, and; your family is safe enough not to be put at risk if your child mentions your polyamorous relationship to your boss, friend or stepfather. If your child asks about your relationship, it indicates that he is old enough to understand at least one simple answer.
Many polyamorous parents in my Longitudinal Polyamorous Family Study (LPFS) reported waiting for their children to ask questions about their relationships and then respond to children’s questions with honest, age-appropriate information. Others felt it was important to bring up their polyamorous relationships with one or all of their children, as children might have noticed and parents did not want children to think there was a secret that they were. had to hide from the other parent. Still other parents in the LPFS have been revealed to their children and / or other people by circumstances or other intentions.
No matter how you choose to tell children or whether they find out, there are a few suggestions from the LPFS that might offer tips on how to talk to children about polyamory. These include being age appropriate, approachable, factual, and honest, along with some tips on what to say.
Children in polyamorous families have very different experiences, in part depending on their age. Pre-teens and teens have a much more sophisticated understanding of adult relationships than younger children, so you can give older children more detailed information than smaller ones. Use your understanding of your child to determine the type of information you are providing.
Image: Parent and child walking down the street
Source: PX here, Creative Commons
Creating an environment in which children feel safe asking questions is a big step towards building the kind of relationship that will allow them to ask you questions about polyamory. While some families have secrets that they are not allowed to talk about, LPFS families have generally allowed their children to ask any questions, about anything that has happened to them. Sometimes the adults would say it was a private matter or they would talk about it later, but the kids never got in trouble for asking about anything. This allowed the children to ask their parents questions about what was going on in the family.
There is no shame in being honest and negotiating creative adult relationships, so when talking to your kids about being in a CNM relationship, make sure you are factual. No shyness, no need to cringe. Instead, seek your children’s attention in a low-key way and give them information in a relaxed and confident tone. Ideally, your disclosure fits nicely into the conversation with your child, with no special emphasis or planning on your part, but just part of the interaction of everyday life. You may need to schedule a time to talk about it, but be sure to avoid days that are already important for other reasons like birthdays, holidays, weddings, or graduation ceremonies.
Image: Honesty spelled out in seashells on sand
Source: PX here, Haseeb Photography
Honesty is a hallmark of polyamorous relationships, and parents at LPFS reported that this resulted from their interactions with their romantic and polyaffective partners to influence their parenting roles. Parents told their children the truth, and children liked it and often responded in the same way. This was also true for the discussion of polyamory. When kids asked their parents who these other people are, parents were honestly explaining in a way that made sense to kids that age. Overall, this method gave the best results, as a few children in the LPFS reported that they did not get enough information from their parents (for good reason in each case) and were left behind. uncomfortable confusion for a while until they figure it out. themselves.
What to say?
In addition to being honest and age-appropriate, polyamorous parents and their children in the LPFS have both said less is more. Beyond providing enough information so that children understand everything they can understand at their age, it may be best to wait until children ask for more information. LPFS teens and tweens suggest that the most comfortable language for them to hear from their parents was that they “hung out” with other people, that each person knew and accepted it, and that children could. ask more questions if they wanted. The focus here was not on the sexual content of their relationship, but on what the other parent / s knew and that was OK with all the adults involved.
If or when you tell your kids that you have a CNM relationship, all of you will need to figure out how to handle that information in the outside world. The next blog gives advice for parents and children on how to deal with people outside the polycule.