Many people worry about the consequences of coming out to family, friends and the general public. Let’s face it: some people just don’t understand. As far as we’ve progressed, there are still people who get hung up on anything that isn’t “mainstream,” and that can cause you to worry about whether your own kids will accept you once you tell them you’re gay.

The good news? Your kids will probably accept you just the way you are because you’ve raised them to be understanding, empathetic and sensitive to the needs of others. You’re about to take a positive step that will allow you to be who you really are, so keep that in mind when you’re fretting over telling your children you’re gay.

Coming Out before or during Divorce

Whether you’re contemplating divorce or you’re already working with a Toronto divorce lawyer, you’re probably worried about how your kids are coping with the stress of your marriage. You might think that coming out will cause even more emotional upheaval—but you’re probably wrong.

Research suggests that most kids just want to see their parents happy, and if you explain your situation to them using terms they can understand, you’ll be able to help them understand your divorce and how the future will shape up all at once. You might have to have several conversations with your kids, particularly if they don’t understand; in some cases, talking to a therapist as a family can help. Your Toronto divorce lawyer can probably refer you to a professional if you’re having a tough time finding one on your own.

You might also find the Human Rights Campaign’s Resource Guide to Coming Out helpful.

Dating and Divorce

Your Toronto divorce lawyer has probably advised you not to date anyone while you’re still going through your divorce. However, if your divorce is over and you’re ready to explore the dating scene, go have some fun! Before you bring a new flame home to meet your kids, make sure he or she is worth it; kids can be confused when a parent introduces multiple love interests within a short period of time.

Age-Appropriate Conversations for Your Kids

Young children—infants and toddlers—don’t require any explanation. All they need to see is that mommy or daddy is happy and everything’s fine. Older kids might require more in-depth explanations, but as a parent, you’ve probably handled much worse (so remember that if you’re worried).

School-aged kids might have questions for you, so be prepared to answer simply and honestly. They may even ask if homosexuality was a contributing factor in your divorce, if you’re seeing someone new, or if your ex knows. The key is encouraging open dialogue. If your kids don’t want to talk about it, don’t pressure them. Just let them know you’re available to talk if they’d like to.

Adult children will have their own questions and concerns, but you might be surprised to find out that they already know and were just waiting for you to break the news. If it’s a complete shock, give as many honest answers as you can.

The Right Time to Come Out

Generally, the sooner the better is a good rule to follow about coming out. Set aside a special time to have a heart-to-heart discussion with your kids. Opening two-way dialogue is usually the best way to let them know. You don’t have to make a big deal out of it; in fact, when was the last time you heard of a straight person sitting their kids down and coming out as a heterosexual?

The most important aspect of telling your kids that you’re gay is the fact that you won’t have to hide who you are. That’s psychologically damaging to you, your future partners and even, potentially, to your kids. If you hold out, they might wonder why you kept it from them and see homosexuality as something shameful that should be hidden—and that’s definitely not the message you want to convey.