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Family Differences

Dear Debi,
I have a 4-year-old child in my care thatís being raised by a single dad. The other kids always ask her where her mommy is. How do I let them know that her family isnít the same as theirs?
Jackie, Hayworth, CA
Debi's Tips
Debi Gutierrez
Debi Gutierrez
  • Thereís no such thing as the ďtypical familyĒ.
  • Partner with parents.
  • Help kids understand similarities and differences between families.
Expert Advice
Susan Wood
Susan Wood
Director, Childrenís Center at CalTech
The family that is considered typical Ė two parents and children Ė is not the average family in the U. S. Regardless of the configuration, if the family nurtures and supports all family members, itís doing what itís supposed to do.

When child care providers and parents (no matter what the family structure) support each other, everyone benefits, especially children. Forming that partnership between school and home is important for all families. But itís especially important for what society wants to call non-traditional families.

At our center we provide opportunities for families to get together. That gives parents a chance to get to know each other. We use our center as an opportunity for parents to realize that theyíre not alone, regardless of the make-up of their family structure.

A provider can help children understand the similarities and the differences and appreciate the uniqueness of their family, by displaying materials and books that depict different family structures.

At our center we welcome all families and incorporate their differences into the curriculum. If a child has two moms or two dads, for example, or the child lives in a single parent home, we use their life experience to learn math.

Bottom line is, never judge a family, because it will affect the child later in life.
Child Care provider Comments
Provider for 10 years
In my 10 years as a provider, Iíve cared for children from all types of backgrounds. I had a little boy whose father was from Spain and his mother was from Japan. He spoke English, Spanish and Japanese at 3.

I had another boy who had an African American mother and a white father. Other kids Iíve cared for were being raised by their grandparents or in a single family home.

Children who have two parents donít understand why any other kid would have only one. And if they talk about it without understanding what happened, it can create problems. Thatís when I jump in and try to explain what a divorce means and get the parents informed so that they get involved too. It is important to explain it and talk about it with everyone, not only the kid whose parents are divorced.
Family child care provider for 2 years
There is a girl I care for who is being raised by a single parent, she lives with her mother. My whole theory is to make life as normal as possible for her and not to create differences. If the children have two parents or one parent, I try to be truthful with them and not pretend. I explain to them that families are different, that some have a mom and a dad, others just a mom, or even two moms or two dads.

I teach them not just to accept the children who are different from them, but also to be compassionate toward the children who are less fortunate.
Parent Comments
Mother of two children
Iím from a same sex couple. We have two children, Cooper and Eleanor. Cooperís 4 and Eleanorís 3.

Our biggest challenge is to raise our kids in an accepting environment. By building strength of character and sense of self, we hope that other peopleís questions and doubts wonít bother our kids. We are honest with them all the time and never shield them from the truth, from the fact that their family is different.

Family Collage Poster Featured Activity:
Family Collage Poster
Diversity <br>Through Art Featured Video:
Through Art
Topic: Social & Emotional Development
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Downloads (Get Reader)
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