It can be an incredible challenge to raise children when you fall outside the nuclear family mold. Unmarried straight couples and single parent households are sometimes criticized for their choices, but families in the LGBTQ community face not just objection, but hate crimes. Non-traditional couples have to be prepared to face more than the average parenting challenges. No matter how carefully you choose your neighborhood or school district, there’s always going to be people who don’t agree with your lifestyle. Here are a few tips for parenting in a non-nuclear family.
1. Know what you’re up against.
Whether you’re adopting, adopting your partner’s child, or opting for surrogacy, everyone is going to have something to say -- even the people who love you. It can help to be prepared for some of the cruel, while occasionally well-meaning, nonsense the rest of the world is going to have to say. Know a few of the standard arguments used against LGBTQ families, and have some statistics or simple, well-crafted arguments ready.
2. Don’t be afraid to talk about everything.
Communication is absolutely essential -- for both you and your partner, and your child. If communication is a struggle in your relationship, begin improving that before you even start the paperwork. When it comes to your child, start the talk early. Remember, for them, your family is normal. The more they see other families, the more they’ll begin to realize their home is different. Be honest with your child, and encourage them to ask questions. Having trouble finding acceptance in a community makes it even more important to find it at home. Another essential thing to talk about is when your child has to tell their friends or classmates about their family -- and the answer is, when they’re is ready.
3. Know how to respond well to bad situations.
While role playing can seem silly, it's a great way to help your child feel more confident in the face of bullying or rude strangers. Hearing harsh comments in a safe setting can make them less frightening down the road. It’s also important your child understands it isn’t their job to defend you -- it’s your job to defend them. Getting into yelling matches and fistfights with strangers (or his friends’ parents) isn't going to help either-- while they might not like it, this will, at the very least, save you some visits to the principle’s office. This also means you have to react calmly, and talk about the problem when your child brings it up, rather than getting angry. Incidents can also be used as ways to talk about the right way to respond.
4. Utilize supportive resources.
Some of the most important things experts recommend when it comes to LGBTQ families are to utilize the resources provided to them. While the number of non-traditional parents is significantly smaller than traditional parents, this number is growing, and there are organizations that are helping it to expand safely. There are organizations for finding school, to help with parenthood, and specifically for children with LGBTQ parents. Look into support groups in your area, or just find a family in a similar situation.