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Helping Kids Understand Alternative Family Building

A traditional family involves a mother, a father, and their children. While the traditional family structure is still common, there are now many diverse and alternative family structures.

The increasing prevalence of diverse family structures is due to various factors, such as changing social attitudes, advancements in reproductive technologies, and evolving cultural norms. 

What Is An Alternative Family Structure?

Alternative family building describes families that do not fit into the traditional nuclear family model. Some examples of diverse family structures include:  

  • Single parenthood is where one parent is responsible for raising the children. This parent may be divorced, widowed, or have chosen to raise the children independently.  
  • Same-sex families are where two parents are of the same gender.  
  • Cohabitation is where two adults live together as partners but aren’t married.  
  • Surrogacy is where a woman carries a baby for someone else. Surrogacy can be traditional or gestational and involve the intended parent’s or donor’s genetic material.  
  • Adoption is where a child is legally placed with a new family.   
  • Polygamy is where one or both parents have multiple spouses. Polygamy is practiced by some couples in certain cultures or religions, but it is illegal in many countries.  

Alternative family structures are becoming increasingly common, and children need to understand and appreciate the diversity of families. As a parent in an alternative family structure, you must guide your children in understanding and respecting different family models. Here are some tips to consider: 

Ways To Help Kids Understand Alternative Family Building

Utilize Books And Other Resources

Many resources are available to parents when it comes to helping kids understand diverse family structures. Some of these resources include:  

  • Watch documentaries as they can show your child different types of families and how they are formed. Documentaries such as ‘Babies’ or ‘Gayby Baby’ can provide a unique perspective on other family structures. In addition, you can help your kids see that all families are unique and valuable. 
  • Show online resources: Online resources like NewGen Families provide support for alternative family structures, such as single parenthood, adoption, and surrogacy. Showing your child blogs can help them understand that there are many families like theirs and that they aren’t alone. 
  • Share books about the topic: Many books can help children understand alternative family building. For example, ‘Families, Families, Families!’ by Suzanne Lang is a children’s book celebrating diverse family structures.  

With the help of these resources, you can encourage your kids to be more open to alternative family structures. 

Normalize The Situations

To further help your child understand alternative family structures, consider using examples of people they know with such families. For instance, you could explain to your child how their aunt and her wife have created a loving home for their children. This situation can help your child see that different families come in all shapes. 

Another way to introduce alternative family structures is through popular media. If your child idolizes celebrities from diverse family structures, you may also use it as an example. For example, your child admires a star who’s part of an LGBTQ+ family. If so, you may explain to them how the family functions. 

Using relatable instances, your child can appreciate the diversity of families and understand that different family structures are equally valuable.

Use Positive And Age-Appropriate Language

Using positive and age-appropriate language when discussing alternative family structures with your children is essential. Instead of using negative terms like ‘non-traditional’ families, opt for more inclusive terms like ‘diverse’ or ‘unique’ when introducing your kids to the concept of different types of families. 

It’s also crucial to consider the age of your children when explaining these concepts. For younger children, a simple explanation like ‘Some families have one parent, some have two’ may be sufficient. As children mature, you can provide more detailed explanations. You may say, ‘Some families have two parents of the same gender, while others have two parents of different genders.’ By using positive language and age-appropriate explanations, you can help your children understand and appreciate the diversity of families.

Be Open To Questions And Be Patient

You may expect questions as you continue to explain the alternative family structure to your kids. Being open to listening and responding to these questions is crucial in helping your children understand.   

If you don’t have an answer yet, it’s best to be honest. Instead of making up answers, telling your kids that you’ll find out and get back to them would be wise. Doing so shows your children that you value their curiosity and are committed to helping them understand.   

In addition, giving your child time to process and understand alternative family structures is essential. Therefore, it’s best not to expect them to grasp or accept these concepts immediately. Thus, consider staying patient and continue to provide information and support as needed.  

Celebrate Diversity

Once your kids start understanding the diversity of families, encourage them to celebrate and appreciate this diversity through various activities and experiences. If you and your spouse are within the LGBTQIA+ community, it’s best if you encourage your children to celebrate diversity. For instance, you may bring your kids to community events like pride parades.   

The same idea applies if you and your partner are from different cultural backgrounds. In that case, consider taking your kids to cultural festivals. That way, they will be exposed to other families and learn more about their differences and similarities. 

Final Thoughts

Teaching children to understand and appreciate alternative family structures is crucial as the world becomes diverse. In doing so, you can create a more inclusive and empathetic environment. By providing credible resources and actively listening to your children during discussions, you can encourage them to appreciate diverse family structures.   

So, it’s best to equip your children with the knowledge they need to build a more inclusive and accepting world. 

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