A new school year is an exciting time, but it can also be stressful and challenging. For LGBTQ parents, back to school can mean new struggles with acceptance and inclusion. Psychology professor Abbie E. Goldberg researches LGBTQ parents’ relationships with schools and shares these seven tips to help parents navigate their children’s educational settings.
Talk to the school preemptively
Schedule a meeting with your child’s teacher and administrators to brief them on your family structure, what your child calls each parent and other important figures in their life like a donor or birth parent. This can help avoid miscommunications down the road and help them better teach your child. This also provides a space for teachers to ask questions.
Goldberg suggests that parents who have time should make an effort to join the PTA and chaperone field trips. This helps remind other parents and administrators that there is diversity among the parent community and also helps make the educational setting more comfortable for other gay parents and even students.
Many schools aren’t actively trying to make their space uncomfortable for gay parents and their children but could be doing so without even realizing it. Suggest that literature depicting LGBTQ characters be added to the school library and normalize asking students what they call their guardians. This can be helpful for not only LGBTQ parents but also students who come from non-traditional family structures.
Find out what school policies are surrounding homophobic, sexist, or transphobic behavior. What are their policies on bullying? Advocate for change if these policies fall short on protecting LGBTQ children and families.
Talk to your children
Check-in with your children regarding their experiences at school to root out any potential issues early on. Ask them about their teacher, their friends, and if they feel comfortable in their learning environment.
Empower your children
Build up your child’s confidence and encourage them to use their perspective to enact positive change. Help them develop a repertoire to respond to teasing and encourage them to politely ask classmates to stop using homophobic language.
Build a support system
Connecting with other LGBTQ parents can be very helpful in tackling issues when they arise and forming a sense of community.
Research has shown that students who attend schools that have LGBTQ topics and historical figures incorporated into the curriculum are less likely to experience bullying, but unfortunately, schools in areas that are not as accepting of LGBTQ families can be an unfriendly space for LGBTQ parents. These steps can help create a more welcoming environment for students and parents.