When it comes to parenting, the challenges will be much the same, whether you are same-sex parents or not. That said, there might be additional concerns for same-sex parents as they can face problems regarding being accepted into society, and feeling supported. Family Lives does recognise that this is improving as same-sex families become more recognised as part of today’s society, but there is always room for improvement.
If you are in a same-sex relationship but have children from a previous heterosexual relationship, you might have concerns about losing custody, or fear that the courts will look favourably towards heterosexual parents. If you had children through donor insemination you might have the additional worry later in life when your children might start to wonder who their donor father is.
Children growing up in same-sex parented families might have concerns about how others might view their family and whether they will be looked at differently to their peers who might live with a mum and dad. These are all real concerns for children and it is important that they reassured on a continual basis. Same-sex parents might also be concerned about whether their children will be affected by growing up in a household of same-sex parents and what impact this might have on later life, if any.
So what challenges are same-sex parents likely to face?
Same-sex families encounter challenges similar to other families but also have some very different concerns such as worrying about whether their child will be bullied for having a different family life setting. There are ways that you can help your children with this such as pointing out the things you think are special about your family life. You can also talk to them about discrimination and help them think about why people tease or bully others, whilst reinforcing that this is not acceptable behaviour and they have done nothing wrong to deserve to be treated in this way.
Prejudice is another challenge that same-sex parents face either on a personal level or an institutional level where there is a lack of support, understanding, services and legislation. Children might suffer at school because they are not accepted by their peers or because their teachers are insensitive to their family set up and find it easy to blame their family life for any trouble.
So what can you do to help your child?
- Get some books that deal with these issues that are age appropriate. They can then read these in their own time at their own pace.
- Getting the school involved might also be helpful and you might like to speak to the teacher to see if they would be willing to talk about family structures to help educate other children.
- Joining a local support group so your children can meet others in a similar situation which might help if they feel as though they are struggling to “fit in” society. If no such groups exist, how about doing some research into setting your own group up in your local area?
You can get in touch with Stonewall as they can offer advice, support and information.