It’s time to adapt, by adapt I don’t mean become politically correct, although many may see it as the same thing…
There’s a growing number of single and same-sex parents in our society. What this means is that many of these parents send their children to schools for which you are a class mom or you teach at.
Until recently, you probably found that most, if not, all the children attending your schools came from households with a male and female parent. Certainly, growing up, this was the “norm” in the schools I attended.
Today, our society has changed with many children being raised by single parents, be that a male or female parent. It has changed more though, for today you will also find homes with two parents of the same sex.
For the longest time, teachers sent out letters addressed to either “Dear Parents” or “Dear Mum”, depending on what the content was about. Society has evolved and so should the way you address these letters to the children’s parents. Imagine my utter dismay to recently receive a letter from our son’s class moms that started off “Dear Mums…”!
Why would you send out a letter addressed to Mums when you have children being raised by single dads and same-sex couples who are male! It’s six months into the school year, with at least two (if not more) parent events that would have introduced you to the fact that your own child attends school with another child with either a single parent or two same-sex parents that are male.
A few suggestions for class moms and teachers on how to better address parents of the students with either a single dad or same-sex parents raising them, I found a document by two women Helen Mongan-Rallis and Annie Rees, on this very same topic:
- Do NOT assume family structure or what you assume the child’s family to be.
- Be inclusive, and not exclusive through your choice of words adapt documents and forms to use neutral and inclusive language e.g. replace the words mother and father with parent or guardian. You are still addressing the same people in the student’s life.
- Letters, emails, and notices should be addressed to parents and/guardians on mother and fathers day, and be open to creating more than one card or gift.
- Family announcements in the school newsletter should (permission granted of course) include not just births and weddings, but also the adoption of a sibling, the union of a child’s parents (same-sex) and even the adoption of a child by a second parent (single parent marries and the new wife or husband adopts the spouse’s child).
I love that our son’s headmistress has understood how my son refers to me as Mathé and on some occasions has been heard to ask our little boy: “Did Mathé help you with that?”
So as a teacher make more effort to understand what names your students use to refer to their parents.
Do your best not to judge when speaking to your students with single parents or same-sex parents.
Rather encourage your students whose family structures are different to be secure in who they are, working towards building confident students who are proud of their family. Keep it real!
Our school systems go out of their way to provide an environment that is non-racial, so I suggest you include being sensitive to children being brought up within different family structures too. Include books in your library that not only show different skin tones but also books that reflect different family structures.
School non-discriminatory policies should include sexual orientation and ensure that class parents, teachers and others in authority embrace inclusive and non-discriminatory language.
Be comfortable with the words gay, lesbian, same-sex, and others as you are with the words mom and dad.
The school our son attended last year and is at now was extremely forward-thinking in this regard, except for the recent letter received from his class mom.
With more gay and lesbian couples, and single dads and moms bringing up children in our society today, it is important that our schools learn to discuss parents more inclusively.
In these formative years, it is important that both parents and teachers find ways to discuss the diversities in our society so that our children grow up feeling confident and proud of who they are regardless of their background, sexual orientation and/or family setup.
References: Tips for teachers for understanding and supporting students whose parents/guardians are lesbian and/or gay by Helen Mongan-Rallis and Annie Rees
Emanuel blogs about life as a family made up of a same-sex couple and their son. He uses the blog to share snippets of their journey as two gay dads raising their son, the questions they face and how they deal with them. Through the blog, Emanuel also endeavours to provide a starting point for other same-sex couples, gay individuals and straight couples looking at adoption as a form of starting or extending their family. As a family, they enjoy time outdoors cycling, swimming, running or hiking to explore our city and stay fit. When they’re not outdoors, they love spending time at home braaiing or reading.
You can find Manii over on Two Dads and a Kid