When children are old enough to enroll in school, LGBT parents may wonder if their children will be safe, respected, and embraced by the school. Although some schools may be welcoming of LGBT families, others may not. Depending on the school, teachers, fellow students, and parents all have the potential to influence the child’s school experience. Fortunately, there are a few approaches LGBT parents can take to help the school understand LGBT families and help their child have a positive experience.
Talk to your child
Before they enter school, talk to your child and discuss what makes your family important. The following are a few ways you can approach your child:
- Build confidence – Remind your child that they are important. Encourage them and make them feel proud of who they are and where they come from. Reinforce the positive aspects about your family by sharing stories, reading books, or watching shows that include LGBT families.
- Discuss diversity – Talk to your kids about all kinds of families, including the similarities and differences. Many families are different in one way or another.
- Have examples ready – Discuss a few ways your children can answer their peers’ questions about your family in a positive light. Many children's questions about LGBT families are out of curiosity. Phrases like, “My parents love each other” or “In my family, we don’t think any less of people because of who they love” or “love comes in many forms” are all good ways to introduce your family to your child’s peers.
- Connect with other LGBT parents or adults – have your children meet other LGBT parents or adults. It is important for them to understand they are not alone, and LGBT families exist in the community. Knowing other LGBT families can help your child feel confident when talking about your family.
- Stay positive and leave out fear – It’s common to assume prejudices will happen at school, but children do not have the same assumptions. Your concerns may not have occurred to them yet, so remind them of the positive aspects of your family rather than spreading fear to children. What is most important is the love you and your child share with the family.
Get involved with your child’s school
- Get to know your child’s teacher – Have frequent conversations with the teacher and build a positive relationship. This will help them get to know you on a personal level and see the positive role you play in your child’s life. It is easier to communicate when you have an established relationship.
- Inform the teacher about the dynamics of your family - Having a teacher that understands your family can help them aid your child’s situation in the classroom. Let them know that your child, just like any other, needs acceptance, respect, and understanding.
- Discuss bullying with teachers and the school – what is the policy around bullying? What do staff do about mean teasing or LGBT related bullying?
- Talk to the school about ways to support diverse families – provide the school with LGBT inclusive school resources, like books and lesson plans. Ask if there are other ways teachers can integrate inclusive language into the classroom.
- Ask the school about professional development – Have the teachers had training experience regarding diversity, including LGBT families? Has there been training regarding bullying prevention?
Having concerns regarding your child’s wellbeing in school is common among all parents. If you or someone you know is anxious about your child’s safety in school, don’t hesitate to get professional help. Talking to a therapist can help ease tension and address possible solutions. For more guidance regarding LGBT families, child bullying, or more, find a qualified MFT on Counseling California’s directory today!
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