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To wish parents in 'traditional' families would explain to their children that families come in all shapes and sizes?

(145 Posts)
acceptableinthe80s Mon 04-Mar-13 16:23:17

Just overheard yet another friend ask DS (4) where his daddy is. DS hasn't even asked about his absent father yet, i've raised him alone since birth.

I realize it's a perfectly normal question for a child to ask, however all his friends parents know he doesn't have a daddy and one in particular has asked him several times in front of the other parent. Is it really too much to expect a parent to explain to their kids that all families are different and some children don't have a daddy/mummy and that it might be a little insensitive to keep asking?
I do think it's a case of just not thinking it's necessary as they themselves are not in that situation so it doesn't affect them.
I know two young children who have both lost their mothers too and it's just so upsetting for the children to keep being asked about them.

So AIBU to expect parents to explain these things to their children in order to spare the feelings of the children affected, not to mention the awkward questions they can raise for single parents?

insancerre Mon 04-Mar-13 18:12:21

YABU
He does have a dad. How you broach that subject is up to you but you can't just tell him that he doesn't have one. Unless you are the Virgin Mary.
Every child has a Mum and a Dad, whether they are on the scene or not. It might be complicated for some but you can't get past simple biology.

LynetteScavo Mon 04-Mar-13 18:25:33

So you yourself haven't bought up the subject of your DSs father with him, you are waiting for him to ask....yet you want other parents to explain to their DC that not all families are "traditional".

Sorry, YABU.

YANBU to think parents in a trad family should talk with their children about different family set-ups, but this wouldn't always stop young children asking questions, and I don't think it should really be done for that purpose, but just to encourage the gradual development of tolerance and understanding of diversity.
If the children are growing up with the right kind of attitudes then generally their questions, though occasionally repetitive and slightly annoying are unlikely to do much harm (I feel) As they grow older their ability to be more sensitive in what they say and ask should develop (in the right atmosphere)
Recently DS (even at about 10) needed reminding that you can still have a baby if you're not married ! Perhaps we should have talked more ... but at least I put him right when it came up smile

FillyPutty Mon 04-Mar-13 18:29:13

YABU

acceptableinthe80s Mon 04-Mar-13 18:33:46

I have no intention of telling him he doesn't have a dad insancerre. The problem is what to tell his friends and the fact that ds himself has yet to ask about him. I can't very well say to his friends that his dad didn't want anything to with him when ds himself is completely unaware of this (and shall remain so as clearly that's not how i'll be explaining it).
Like i said upthread i've been waiting for him to ask but he just hasn't and now it looks like i'll probably have to broach the subject even though ds himself doesn't seem the least bit inquisitive about it just so he can answer his friends questions.

WorraLiberty Mon 04-Mar-13 18:36:40

I agree with Lynette

You also need to speak to your child to explain all different family dynamics, including his own.

WorraLiberty Mon 04-Mar-13 18:38:08

Try the library OP

There are lots of different books/stories that cover different family set ups.

It may even prompt him to ask about his own?

MammaMedusa Mon 04-Mar-13 18:45:06

I agree with Lynette. I think you need to decide very soon what you are going to tell him. It can be a simple version for now, but a simple version of what ever your final story will be.

If the truth is "dad didn't want anything to do with him" then you need to find a way of saying that which is palatable. You should not lie as it will only catch you out later.

highlandcoo Mon 04-Mar-13 18:46:46

My first thought is that this little girl might be worried that her own daddy could disappear. Her constant questions may be trying to understand where your son's daddy has gone and an attempt to obtain reassurance that she won't be without a daddy herself?

BubblegumPie Mon 04-Mar-13 18:48:55
acceptableinthe80s Mon 04-Mar-13 18:49:35

Ok LynetteScavo i'm prepared to be told iabu. However i have discussed different types of families with ds from a young age and read lots of books and i think his lack of questioning re his father might stem from this so it would seem it may have slightly back fired for me as he already knows there are one parent/same sex/adoptive families etc. therefore doesn't question his own circumstances.

It's very difficult to know when to mention 'oh by the way you have a father but you'll never see him'. When would you suggest? 2yrs? 3yrs?
I just assumed he would have asked by now.

jugglingfromheretothere You've put it perfectly, i've discussed the above with ds for all those reasons as well as personal ones, I probably should have kept my personal issues out of this.

BubblegumPie Mon 04-Mar-13 18:50:54

Actually, that's american sorry.

There's loads of great books here

redskyatnight Mon 04-Mar-13 18:51:35

Hang on ... a 4 year old asking DS where his father is doesn't mean that the child has even realised that DS's father isn't on the scene. My children ask this question of others all the time - quite often the answer is "at the shops" or "at work".

I actually think YABabitU at this sort of age. I've never had a particular talk with my DC about family dynamics, but as they have friends with single parent mums, friends with single parent dads, friends with stepparents, step siblings and half siblings, and friends being looked after by grandparents they've kind of worked out for themselves that families are all different. Surely you can't be the only single parent at your DC's school?

BubblegumPie Mon 04-Mar-13 18:51:37

sorry Xpost

blueballoon79 Mon 04-Mar-13 18:58:20

My children both get asked where their fathers are. My sons father died, so I often feel a little uncomfortable when he is asked but he just explains to them that his father was an alocoholic who sadly died due to his alcoholism.
My son is twelve and I split up with his Dad when he was 3 years old.

My daughter who is 3 years old just tells people that her Daddy doesn't live with us but she sees him on Saturdays.

Young children are naturally inquisitive and DO ask lots of questions. It's their way of finding out about the world. I see nothing wrong with that. You could always tell them yourself that sometimes families split up and some people just live with their Mum, some live with just their Dad etc.

My children are also both disabled and get LOADS of questions about that by younger children. The parents of these children often get embarrassed but I smile at them and tell them not to worry about it. Like I said above, they're learning about the world and I think asking questions and being told about things at an early age helps them to understand that everybody is different and unique.

I think the main thing that helps me is by teaching my children how to deal with the questions in a way they are comfortable with and reassuring them that lots of people live different ways and in different situations and there's nothing wrong with that.

Of course from time to time my son will be upset wishing his father was with him like other childrens are but we all wish things were different from time to time. I wish his father was here for him too but nobody has a magic wand and we just have to work with what we've got.

acceptableinthe80s Mon 04-Mar-13 19:00:03

Forgive me for repeating myself here. I have discussed different family set ups, Ds is very aware that there are many different types of families to the point he just doesn't question his own because he knows we're all different.
I already know what i'm going to tell him (a gentle version of the truth).
My question really was aibu to expect other parents to discuss this too, admittedly i linked it to my own personal circumstances but i do think it's important for all children to be aware of different types of families in the name of tolerance.
I realize it won't stop the questions.

Greythorne Mon 04-Mar-13 19:01:00

I posted a while ago on lone parents about this and decided to just wait until he asks rather than volunteering information but now i'm not so sure .

Maybe the traditional family parents don't know how to broach the subject either?

acceptableinthe80s Mon 04-Mar-13 19:10:39

Greythorne That was in relation to ds and his dad not the general discussion of diversity in families which is what this is about and which i have discussed many times.

blueballoon79 Mon 04-Mar-13 19:11:55

Or perhaps they have discussed this but the children are interested in your situation too.

For example my DD (3) is disabled and her brother is too, yet she'll ask me why a blind woman has a dog and a white stick and why can't she see etc. She's aware of disability and has been spoken to about it but at that moment in time is interested in why this particular person does this, if you see what I mean?

LaurieBlueBell Mon 04-Mar-13 19:13:41

This thread reminds me of a incident in my home many years ago.

I'm a foster carer and at the time we were fostering three boys plus we had ds who was 3.
All sitting around the table on day when one boy said:

"I don't see my daddy anymore because he hurt me and went to prison"

Second child then said:

"My daddy is dead so I can't see him"

Third child said:

"I don't know who my daddy is"

DS piped up with "I see my daddy every day and he's upstairs".

Very sad and made us realise we needed to explain to DS why lots of other children don't have a mummy and daddy like him.
Many years later our family now consists of DD1 (my DHs step daughter) DS1, Two Dc who we long term foster and our adopted DD. They all see each other as siblings. We are now so diverse my DC think normal families are a bit strange grin

Greythorne Mon 04-Mar-13 19:14:50

But don't you see you are picking and choosing what you discuss with your DC and yet expecting "traditional" families, who might never have considered it as an issue, to cover all bases, just in case their 4yo old asks "where's Ben's daddy today?"

Doesn't make much sense.

We have friends who are in a same sex relationship with a child, so we have discussed this in a very factual, pleasant way. Why X has two daddies and how they had her and why she doesn't live with her mummy. Because it came up i conversation naturally.

I don't think I have ever made a point of saying, "and some children only have one parent because one parent died or because the parents got divorced or separated or were never together in the first place etc." as it has just never come up.

MrsDeVere Mon 04-Mar-13 19:19:27

I would say yanbu if you were talking about a 10 year old.

But I am assuming the children you are talking about are the same age as your DC?

4 is very young. Even if information is given children like to have it repeated over and over before it 'sticks'

Serving up information in a lump is not always the best way for young children. It is usually better to let them ask questions at their own pace. If needs be using some prompts to get the conversation going (book, pictures etc).

DS tells anyone who will listen that he has two mummies and I am his great great auntie too (thanks son, I am not quite that old) so we have lots of conversations about families.

It will not always occur to parents to discuss this with very young children.
I think you are being a bit harsh although I can understand why this gets to you

IThinkOfHappyWhenIThinkOfYou Mon 04-Mar-13 19:22:32

We are a traditional family. We do discuss other family set-ups, they have friends and relatives who are in alternative families but my 4yo might still ask another child where there daddy is. He would be satisfied with 'I haven't got one'. If you acknowledge that discussing this won't stop the questions then what exactly do you want people like me to do?

CrunchyFrog Mon 04-Mar-13 19:28:14

I have just asked DS2's pre-school to start using more non-traditional families in their stories etc. DS2 has lived with me and his sibs and had Daddy at weekends since he was 8 months old, but suddenly has started asking lots of questions about the reasons for us living apart.

I think it' partly coming from DD (she was 5 when the split happened) and partly from nursery - one parent families are a rarity still in this area.

ByTheWay1 Mon 04-Mar-13 19:40:16

We are a "traditional" family too... but we've never had any of these books, nor have we specifically talked about different family set-ups.

They know that families can be different to theirs because my sister and my husband's brother are both divorced.... but we've not come across any same sex parents in our little suburban backwater... so it would not really occur to me (or the kids) to discuss it either

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