Curiosity, Teasing & Bullying
By the time most kids of same-sex parents are school age, they’ve already had to respond to questions from well-meaning adults — things like, “Where is your mommy?” or “Which one is your dad?” In most cases, a simple “I have two moms” or “Daddy and Papa are my parents” were sufficient.
However, young classmates can be a bit more persistent. And kids in general can be hurtful, whether they are intending to or not. “Why don’t you have a mommy?” “That’s not your dad… I saw your dad this morning!” “Everybody else has a mom.” “He doesn’t have a mom because she’s dead.” Those are just a few of the things said to or about our son by his classmates. I’m sure other families have heard far more… and far worse.
Parents should find out how teachers deal with situations like these, whether they arise out of curiosity or teasing. Though your child may be able to handle him or herself and field the questions with confidence, it never hurts to be backed up by the teacher. Your kids will only benefit from the additional support.
For the most part, however, teasing (and as kids get older, bullying) happens outside the classroom, so your child’s teacher may not be witness to it. If your child tells you something happened, don’t assume the teacher knows. Keep her/him in the loop.
“I invite parents to come to our early conversations in class about families. We address immigration, single parents, same-sex parents, and adoption, and the kids always have great questions. If we are too scared to talk about these things, we are doing the kids an injustice.” John
“I would help introduce the student to classmates I think they would get along well with, and even pair them with kids who like the same things. This can help them feel more comfortable in class and adjust quickly.” Laura, 5th grade teacher, North Carolina
The truth is, kids are going to be inquisitive about anything different from their own experience. Equipping your child with simple, honest answers is the best defense in most situations. Above all else, remind your child (which means many, many times) that they can always talk to you or their teacher.
As same-sex parents, it’s important to be the educator regarding your family. Don’t assume your child’s teacher has had a student with same-sex parents before. Even if they’re fully accepting and supportive, they’ve likely never dealt with situations like the ones listed — and they’ll be looking to you for guidance.
One last nugget of teacherly wisdom:
“Most teachers are happy to discuss issues like these with you. We teachers want to have a great relationship with our students and their families. But don’t be afraid to be that parent — the one that takes things up with the principal or board of education. Never be afraid to advocate for your child.” —Kemberly, 3rd grade teacher, Maryland
I hope the list has been helpful!
My sincerest thanks to my 10 terrific teachers for your wisdom, input, and willingness to learn. And to all of the teachers out there — thank you, thank you, thank you for all that you do.
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This story originally appeared on the Designer Daddy blog. Brent Almond is a husband, dad, illustrator living in DC who advocates for LGBTQ families and their struggle for equality and visibility.