In 2020, Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) recorded 7.2 million families in Australia. One million were single parent families with just under 80% of these being single mothers.
Regardless of background and circumstances, each family is a unique, diverse and dynamic unit.
Many Australian children live with their birth parents. However, according to the 2016 census, at least one in ten families are where children live with a single parent, a non-biological parent, a step-parent, step or half-siblings or grandparents. This figure is continuing to rise.
Society has slowly been accepting that there is no “family norm” and thank goodness for that. However, as parents we have a role to play to ensure that this trend continues.
It is important for children to understand that every family, be it blended, diverse or LGBTQI+ is valid.
Divorced, remarried, shared children, blended … regardless of race, creed or sexual orientation, the family norm is varied.
Every family is mainstream and unique.
How a family chooses to refer to their family, be it blended, step or adopted, is completely up to them.
Further reading: Blended families and why they are beautiful.
HOW TO HELP YOUR KIDS UNDERSTAND FAMILY DIVERSITY
As our children navigate the world, parents and carers must communicate the importance of family diversity to ensure that they do not harbour any unnecessary prejudices.
Young kids, especially, have inquisitive minds and so often ask lots of questions about why their family uniqueness differs to others.
It’s not rocket science, but children don’t just know things, they need to be taught. And it is our jobs as parents to positively influence their thought processes. As well as arm them with the right information that reflects the world today, as they see and know it.
There are several ways that, as parents, we can help our kids understand family diversity positively and it all starts from a young age.
Here are three simple ways you can help give your children an understanding of healthy dynamic families.
1. Families may look different, but the love is the same
Our job as parents and carers is to ensure our children understand that all families may look different, but the love they share is the same. We need to teach them to accept, respect and include others regardless of their background.
The foundation of a healthy family unit is unconditional love and that can come in different shapes and sizes.
Every family should be proud of their own unique values as well as understand, respect and accept other family’s uniqueness.
Whether it’s “natural conception” with a man and woman or through artificial insemination, egg and sperm donation, adoption or surrogacy, a family is a family.
Encourage open conversations about families and their uniqueness. Kids are inquisitive and will ask questions so make sure you answer them in an age-appropriate manner and with honesty. The key is don’t lie to them or ignore the questions.
Talk through your family values with your children, as well as give them an understanding of diversity and inclusion. Source age-appropriate books or TV shows that explain family dynamics in a fun, less intrusive way.
Always remind kids that no family is different, they are all unique; the love we feel for our families is the same.
2. FAMILIES ARE NOT ALL ONE COLOUR
“A rainbow would never be as beautiful if it was all one colour. It’s the different colours that come together that make it so beautiful. The same is true for families and friends.”
It is important for our children to understand that some kids they come across might look different to one or all of their parents.
It is important to explain to kids that skin colour and physical “sameness” does not equate to family. Talk openly and positively about different cultures, communities, and traditions of family and friends.
Do your research and gen up on your family heritage then share it with your children. You’ll be surprised at how much interest they show once they see it’s something you are passionate about.
3. THERE ARE NO MUMS AND DADS, JUST PARENTS
We hold on to the titles of “mum” and “dad” as if they are sought after badges of honour, especially if the children are biologically ours.
This is a destruction of our own making. It’s not real.
In instances where there is a toxic parent or parental alienation happening, this can be extremely damaging to a child and have lifelong detrimental effects.
It’s time to change your mindset.
Parents are parents. Whether they are biological, step, adoptive or otherwise. Forcing children to decipher between them, using first names or differing titles, is not necessarily what’s best for them.
When it comes to step-parents and non-biological parents, let your child decide.
Children are much more in tune with what feels natural to them then we give them credit for. They will thank you later for not choosing for them.