Strategies for Working With Diverse Families – Definitions of “Family”

Diverse FamilyI love diversity.  I love that is brings new ways of living and loving into our world, expands our understandings of humanity and provides us with new ways of thinking and being.  This is good for everyone.

The notion of the “traditional nuclear family” with 2 parents (a mom and a dad) and 2.5 children (1 boy and 1 girl- not sure who the .5 is) still exists, but it is no longer the norm.  Families come in all shapes and sizes.  We meet single parents, extended families, unmarried couples, second families, extreme age differences, teenaged parents, and single-sex couples (who may or may not be married depending on what state you live in, or what their personal choices are).  

The strategy I want to focus on for working with diverse parents is simple.  Be MINDFUL of who you are serving in your program and be THOUGHTFUL about how you serve them.

During my second year as a director of a preschool, I realized that all of our family forms had very specific questions that were limiting and exclusionary.  There was a line for Mother’s Name and then next to it there was a line for Father’s Name.  With a simple edit, we changed those forms to say Parent/Guardian’s Name and Parent/Guardian’s Name.  This felt so much more inclusive and fair and it applied to all of the grown-ups that might be caring for a child.

In addition, we added another question that asked about “all of the grown-ups who care for the child” so that extended family, godparents, cousins, older brothers and sisters and anyone else who played a role in caring for the child,could be included on the form.

It is also really important to remember how children feel when a program insists on making “Mother’s Day” presents in May, and then “Father’s Day” gifts in June.  For many children, those traditional roles may not exist, and because they are so young, they may not have the emotional capacity and cognitive ability to make sense of these differences.  Since I am not a fan of holiday curricula anyway, I would just nix those events.  I would, in turn, have family events that are designed to celebrate all families.

Remember, family are the people who love you.

BTW- I just did a Google search for a great image of a diverse family and the first 100 images that came up, were the old-school definition of family.  So Sad.

The above image is a family portrait created by famed Chicago artist David Csicsko.  This is from a series called Pass the Peace.  Check out his work.  Magnificent. He also did the art for the fabulous children’s book The Skin You Live In.

The Skin You Live IN

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