Kids across America are heading back to school, including children in same-sex families. While many of the challenges they face are universal, some are unique.
Designer Daddy blogger Brent Almond shares five tips on making the first days of school as much fun as possible. (Sorry, there’s still going to be homework.)
Back-to-school time can be chaotic and stressful—and families with same-sex parents have even more issues to anticipate. Kids with two moms or dads may face situations with potential to both alienate or confuse them, whether it’s a child’s first time attending school or just the next grade up,
To supplement my own (limited) wisdom and experience, I enlisted the help of 10 teachers. While not all have taught kids of same-sex parents, they were all generous and thoughtful in their responses. Here are five of the issues same-sex parented families often encounter, along with input from my awesome panel of educators.
Talking About Parents in Class
In many schools, the younger grades have discussions and activities related to family. Students are often asked to create a family tree or a collage showing the members of their family. For many kids of same-sex parents, this is when their family’s differences become most apparent.
If not handled sensitively, it can amplify feelings of “otherness” and isolation, potentially affecting a child’s social development and ability to learn.
Early in the year, inform the teacher of any family details that fall outside the mother-father-bio child “norm.” In addition to having two moms or two dads, this could include adoption and birth parents, foster experiences, surrogates, siblings, multiracial/multiethnic families, etc. Particularly if it’s something you’ve already discussed with your child. If your kid knows about it, it’s likely to come up.
For example, our then 4-year-old told his pre-k teacher that he had a brother who lived on a farm in Oregon. She was confused and skeptical, which in turn frustrated my son. He was, of course, was telling the truth.
“Teachers can help facilitate conversations and express feelings if they know the situation. For preschoolers or kindergartners this is especially important, as the children may be experiencing being apart from parents for the first time.” —Lisa, kindergarten teacher, DC
“In some ways, knowing about your child’s family and home life is more important than being skilled in delivering the curriculum. I can’t be a good teacher if I don’t know my kids.” —Rachel, 7th grade teacher, Maryland
“I’ve had students who were being raised by a single mother, grandparents, or foster parents. Every student comes from a different home situation, and by knowing what kind of home life they have, I’m able to adjust my teaching to better meet their needs.” —Alexander, kindergarten, 1st & 3rd grade teacher, Virginia
Equipping the teachers with information helps both them and your children have a more productive and empowered school year.