Every Family Is Different, Every Kid Belongs

Rainbow Flag © Superbo | Dreamstime.comKids come to school to learn, but they bring their families and home cultures along for the ride. Those families come in endless varieties—multigenerational, single-parent, group homes, co-parents, adoptive parents, blended families, foster families, stepparents, and GLBTQ parents.

Because of these varieties, teachers must choose their terms carefully to avoid assuming each child has a mom and a dad at home. Books and other resources increasingly reflect many family structures. Any measure educators can take to help students understand these differences—and welcome students from all families to the classroom—helps foster a kid’s sense of belonging to the school community.

Two Moms Happy Child © M. WilbournEven though kids with GLBTQ parents are in schools all over the country, as well as abroad, sometimes they face challenges fitting in, or having others see them as just another kid. The 2010 U.S. Census and also the Pew Research study, “The Decline of Marriage and the Rise of New Families” show that families with GLBTQ parents fall into all socio-economic levels. They are racially and culturally diverse as well.

Yet younger students may encounter puzzlement from classmates and older kids often face other people’s assumptions. At a recent gathering of kids with GLBTQ parents, a student named Lucas commented that sometimes he got tired of explaining his family to people. He is starting high school now, but he recalls bringing the book Daddy’s Roommate to share with his kindergarten class and how other kids thought his family was “really weird.” When he was choosing a high school, many schools touted their active support groups for GLBTQ students, perhaps assuming that would make him feel more welcome. “I completely support queer students” he said, “but I am an ally, not gay.” Each stage of school may require a new discussion of “where do I fit.”

For teachers looking to find the right words, to learn more about the challenges children from GLBTQ families face in school, or to help connect a student with good information, here are some terrific resources:

COLAGE logoCOLAGE is a national organization supporting children, teens, and adults with one or more GLBTQ parents. Their site includes many first-person stories about navigating school and friendships, dealing with bullying, and celebrating families. In 2005, a group of COLAGE kids produced the documentary In My Shoes, opening their families’ doors to the world to share what is the same for them, and what is different. COLAGE offers extensive resources for kids, parents, media, and educators, and has active chapters in 18 cities across the United States.

Many Eyes, Many Voices: Beyond Heather Has Two Mommies is a book list, primarily for younger readers, from the Maine Humanities Council.

GLSEN logoGLSEN (the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network) works to support GLBTQ kids in schools. While not specifically working with kids with GLBTQ parents, their extensive resources and training information for educators offers inclusive lesson plans, book lists, and more.

Abigail Garner, author of Families Like Mine: The Children of Gay Parents Tell It Like It Is, hosts her website Families Like Mine. Her book does an excellent job of discussing being “culturally queer,” as many straight children of GLBTQ parents describe themselves.

Rainbow Rumpus logoRainbow Rumpus is an online magazine for kids with GLBTQ parents. The Kids section includes stories and activities for preschool and elementary school children, and the section for teens is called Rainbow Riot. Readers are encouraged to share artwork on their gallery pages.

PFLAG (Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians and Gays) is a strong ally to GLBTQ parents and has chapters in most states.

Family Equality Council logoThe Family Equality Council serves GLBTQ families. For older students, their program The Outspoken Generation brings the voices of people with GLBTQ parents to the forefront. It includes Zack Wahls who spoke at the recent Democratic National Convention.

How do you talk about different family structures with your students?

If you have found other resources for helping students with GLBTQ parents as they move through school, sports, or social activities, please share them!

We welcome your comments and suggestions. Share your comments, stories, and ideas below, or contact us. All comments will be approved before posting, and are subject to our comment and privacy policies.

Additional Suggested Resource
How It Feels to Have a Gay or Lesbian Parent: A Book by Kids for Kids of All Ages by Judith E. Snow, M.A.

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About Mary Stennes Wilbourn

Blogger for Free Spirit Publishing.
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2 Responses to Every Family Is Different, Every Kid Belongs

  1. Amy Skare-Klecker says:

    A great documentary for kids about different family structures is “That’s a Family” by Groundspark. http://groundspark.org/our-films-and-campaigns/thatfamily

  2. Another great resource for educators is Welcoming Schools that offers resources and training for elementary schools on family diversity, gender and bullying that is LGBT inclusive. You can also check out their short film “What Do You Know? Six to Twelve Year-Olds Talk About Gays and Lesbians.” (www.welcomingschools.org)

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