Despite what TV commercials tell us, the majority of families these days aren’t your stereotypical nuclear families anymore. In fact, 50% of families with children in the US are stepfamilies.
When kids come into contact with other children, they’ll begin to see that other people’s families aren’t like theirs. This’ll likely raise some questions that you’ll need to answer of course. Here are our top tips for helping explain to kids that every family is different in a way they’ll be able to digest:
1. Stories that represent different family units
There was a time when you’d only see 2 parents, one mum and one dad, in any children’s book or TV program. But now there are some nice examples of content that show families of all shapes and sizes.
Kit ‘n’ Kate, which kids can watch on Curious World, shows two kittens and their mum. Even though their mum being a single mum isn’t a heavy feature of the series, subtly including different family dynamics in stories give kids a more realistic impression of what ‘family’ means.
The Family Book by Todd Parr is a book that is written to especially celebrate all different types of families. It’s light hearted and reassuring and is a great way to introduce kids to lots of different ways that families are made up.
2. Experiencing different families for themselves
If some of your friends have a different family set up to your own, spending the day with them can help to open your child’s eyes to how distinct every family is.
I love this quote from Huffington Post about a mother and her blended family: “Because there are so many of us, it’s basically an instant mini party when we’re all in the room or the car or a restaurant. Even if the kids are complaining or arguing, they pretty much always choose to be together rather than apart.”
3. Be straight with them
If your child comes home from preschool or school and has a few questions about your family, (or their friend’s family) there’s no need to over-explain. Just be straight with them and tell them the family situation. They’ll be looking to see how you react, so treating these conversations like they’re no big deal will show them that there’s no problem with having a different family to their classmates.