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?

CloudsAndTrees Mon 04-Mar-13 16:29:52

It's the sort of thing that parents deal with when it comes up naturally. I expect that most of the parents of children that ask these questions will explain it to them at some point, they just might not have felt the need to until their children were exposed to the situation somehow.

YABU if you think that all parents should make a point of explaining it before they go to pre school and are of an age where they could ask.

YANBU if you just want a child who is repeatedly asking to be told to stop.b

Dahlen Mon 04-Mar-13 16:30:14

Do you think this is maybe hitting a nerve slightly and that's why you feel so strongly? (Genuine question, not a sarky one.) I've raised my DC without their father too and I've never really felt I've anything to answer. But then I have discussed different family types with my DC and have done since they tiny. I want my DC to grow up thinking there is nothing odd about same-sex couples having children, single parents, nuclear families, extended families, friendship families - it's a rich cultural world out there with room for all of us.

My DC have simply accepted that daddy isn't around and doesn't live with us without feeling marked out as different or that their family is somehow less valid. It's worth bearing in mind that nearly half of all children don't grow up with both biological parents now, so it's hardly that unusual any more.

For children who have lost parents through bereavement it must be harder though. sad

This is so hard. I know someone who has just found out that her DS (10) has been writing notes to his absent father and hiding them. The father has never been there but he sees all the families around him with fathers and feels the loss. Although you can expect the families to ask their DC to be a little more polite, I think you are going to have to deal with this for a long time. Strategies for DS to deal, rather than hope the world becomes more polite and R, maybe.

MarmaladeTwatkins Mon 04-Mar-13 16:35:53

I think you're being a bit ridiculous, sorry.

You can't expect small children to never ask these questions of other children. What are we parents in "traditional" families supposed to say to our DC? "Don't ever ask any other child where their mummy or daddy is in case they haven't got one"?

I say this as someone who grew up without a dad in her life so I'm not coming at it without experience. I just wouldn't have been arsed if someone asked me where he was (and they did!)

slatternlymother Mon 04-Mar-13 16:36:00

I'm fairly sure they talk about this in school, don't they?

DS has had a thing in nursery as well where they talk about different family 'shapes'. You might have a square (2 parents and 2 children), a triangle (2 parents and 1 child or vice versa) or a heart (parent and child), or whatever.

They haven't spoken about same sex parenting yet, but he's only 2! I'll probably explain that to him as soon as I get get him to grasp it, as there are 2 same sex parent families at nursery at the moment. I probably won't wait for him to ask me.

YANBU, people should educate their children to view these social norms as normal. It's how we create a new, more tolerant generation.


I have DD1 who is my exs. He is very much involved in her life and she is very close to her Nanna and family on that side.

I then have DD2 with DP. And so many people refer to DP as daddy when talking to DD1. But she doesnt realise and then looks at them funny for talking about her daddy when hes not there. grin

Its not anyones fault, they arent to know, but it is embarrassing to always be correcting people.

If it was one child repeatedly bringing it up I would get annoyed!

YANBU to expect parents to at some point explain that families can be different to their own.

YABU if you expect a child of 4 not to ask a question over and over again. I have been asked at least five times today what we are having for tea today. Children can be insensitive despite their parents best intentions.

mindosa Mon 04-Mar-13 16:39:44

Well I dont think parents can run through every permutation and combination. Children think anything rather than their own set up is different.
I explain about different skin colour, same sex parents etc but they will ask anyway

HollyBerryBush Mon 04-Mar-13 16:39:51

Not at 4 no. Thats when children are inquisitive and without malice.

Although I find it bizarre that the topic comes up randomly at the school gate, which is mainly women picking up children, that it would occur to a 4yo that a daddy wasn't in the family dynamic.

BubblegumPie Mon 04-Mar-13 16:44:36

I buy books showing different families for DD, for example Daddy, Papa and Me.

We are a 'traditional family' I want DD to grow up to be a caring, understanding, tolerant individual and that doesn't just happen, you have to help them along.


MammaMedusa Mon 04-Mar-13 16:46:22

I think you need to remember that children don't judge and don't place the same importance on things we do. If "where is his daddy" was answered with a calm and factual "he has no daddy, not everyone does" then he would probably move on to the next question.

I don't think it is a good idea to suggest that certain questions can't be asked, to a small child that almost suggests there is something shameful about having no father which is not what you would want them to think.

CloudsAndTrees Mon 04-Mar-13 16:50:41

It can be a negative when parents talk to their children about these things in the wrong way when they are still too young to really comprehend.

I work in a nursery and we used to have a looked after child with us. One of the parents had obviously discussed this at length with her own dc, who would bring up the fact that Sarah didn't live her mummy on a regular basis. If Sarah did anything she shouldn't have done, the staff would be told to be nice to her because she didn't live with her Mummy, If Sarah snatched a toy from another child, the child would be told they have to let Sarah have their toy because she didn't live with her Mummy.

Sarah was generally fine with the fact that she didn't live with her Mummy, she was still young and knew no different. It wasn't a big deal to her until this other child brought it up all the time, which wouldn't have happened if the parents had not talked about it.

x2boys Mon 04-Mar-13 17:15:14

at 4 kids are just getting to that inquisitive stage though we have a traditioal family mum dad two kids but my boys also have an older half sister from my dh previous relationship its complicated but they are only just getting to know her now i just try and answere questions as we go along for example my oldest ds [age 6] was saying his grandma and grandad my mum and dad were also his sisters grandma and grandad and i had to gently explain that they were nt.

acceptableinthe80s Mon 04-Mar-13 17:17:51

Thanks for all the replies so far. I think i could have worded my OP better.

marmalade Of course i don't expect parents to tell their children not to ask questions, just to explain that there are families of different dynamics to theirs so that when they're told X doesn't have a daddy it's not a big deal.

hollyberry It's not school gate chat, generally it's play dates or meeting up with friends who have kids.

dahlen Like yourself i've talked a lot about different families with ds, he has no problem with the questions, just looks at me blankly. He'll often just say ' i have a papa' as he's very close to my dad and spends a lot of time with him.
So not a raw nerve as such, i just don't want him to know too much too soon iykwim. I'm perfectly to happy to answer his questions but he hasn't actually asked any yet.

The repeat offender is a 6 year old girl, my friends daughter, and even when her mother tells her to stop asking she just continues. Saying that she always does the complete opposite of what her mother tells her so maybe a different tactic required there.

wannaBe Mon 04-Mar-13 17:39:15

thing is children will ask - that's what they do.

Tbh it sounds to me as if this is more about you and the fact that this questioning may lead your ds to ask questions which you yourself are not yet ready to answer. It's also entirely possible, likely even, that your ds has been talking about not having a daddy when on these playdates when other children mention their's which is perhaps why the question has been asked by the other children.

When I was at school there were several children who were adopted/didn't have parents living together/whose parents essentially left them at school and never came back/didn't bother with them. We were all aware of it because the children made us aware of it. We had one little girl who had come from a children's home (this was a boarding school) and had been dropped off by her carer from there. She was subsequently adopted by one of the school staff, and it was common knowledge that mrs x (whose name now escapes me) was now this child's mum...

I'm afraid it's a fact that when you live in a situation which is not traditional the questions are likely to come from elsewhere if you haven't brought them up already. I have a cousin who was adopted by my grandmother, and he found out when he was five because a child at school said to him "your mummy isn't your real mummy," said child had probably heard it from parents, not necessarily even directly but often adults don't consider just how much children do take in when they're having conversations. My nan at that point hadn't told him but the situation forced her to do just that.

I know I'm rambling but unfortunately I think yab a bit u to think that this is someone else's issue to deal with - your ds doesn't have a daddy, that's a fact, children who do have one will be curious about that, and it's likely your ds is even curious about it but because you don't talk about it or is too young to articulate, hasn't asked the questions yet.

Floggingmolly Mon 04-Mar-13 17:50:17

If your friends daughter is really a "repeat offender", then that is bratty behaviour and needs to be addressed. It's almost a form of bullying - to latch onto someone's obvious discomfort at a situation and use it against them. Ok, she's only 6, but you need to make sure the mum clamps down hard on this now.

sydlexic Mon 04-Mar-13 17:51:15

When DS was small I caught him staring out of the window looking very upset and worried. I asked him what was wrong and he said "Mummy I am worried about the baby cloud, it's been there on its own for five minutes and it's Mummy or Daddy is nowhere to be seen".

It was only at this point tht I realised he thought everything came in perfect little families. We had a chat.

Viviennemary Mon 04-Mar-13 17:56:44

I think it's best till it crops up naturally and not to make a big thing of explaining. And not make a big deal out of it.

Gay40 Mon 04-Mar-13 18:00:38

Kids like to know the structure of a family in a way they can relate to. I also think most parents talk about it when it crops up as opposed to thinking "oh, X is of an age where we talk about same sex parents" or whatever.

Unfortunately they do repeat themselves over and over but sometimes because they cannot make sense of the situation in the structure they know.
Bullying, however, needs to be nipped in the bud immediately.

Although DP and I have raised DD together since she was very tiny, most kids realise that two mums is quite unusual, so I suggested to DD that she use any explanation she fancied to get the message across. She elected to refer to me as her stepmum in any explanatory conversations, although she was keen to stress to us that it wasn't how she thought of us in her head. But most children knew a step parent as someone who lives with your parent and loves you as well.

Whatever works, I said.

FierceBadIggi Mon 04-Mar-13 18:01:46

I don't think little children will get the sensitivity angle of not asking questions. Also, surely the attempt is to normalise diverse family relationships, so you're not wanting a child to feel sorry for one without a mother/father, just to realise lots of people have different set-ups.
Slatternlymother - my ds enjoyed the book And Tango Makes Three - pictue book of true story of gay penguins who adopt a chick! So then when same-sex families at nursery come up (if it does) you can say "yes, like the penguins".

acceptableinthe80s Mon 04-Mar-13 18:02:12

I think you might be right wannaBe. It's not that i'm not ready to answer though (believe me i've though about it a LOT), it's just that DS hasn't asked and that's what makes these instances awkward. I almost wish he would ask so we could have the conversation and he would be able to answer any questions.

As far as DS is concerned my dad is his 'dad', though he knows he's his grandad they are very very close and spend lots of time together.

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 confused.

RedToothBrush Mon 04-Mar-13 18:02:32

Not sure what you expect. Is it other families responsibilities or your responsibility to say that other children don't always realise that they are different - and maybe not the other way round? Kids are going to always ask stuff like this; if its not this question it'd be something else you might be sensitive about.

Its up to you to reassure and make sure your own family unit knows they are ok as they are no matter what anyone might say or question about it. Have confidence in your own set up; don't expect everyone else to pander to it.

KitchenandJumble Mon 04-Mar-13 18:09:28

Perhaps the little girl who asks repeatedly is actually trying to ask something else. She may be curious about where babies come from, and perhaps her parents have said something like "Everyone has a mother and a father." So she may be trying to work out how that can be if your DS' father is not present in his life. I wouldn't immediately jump to the conclusion that the child is teasing or even bullying him. Sometimes children repeatedly ask a question that has already been answered, but they really want to know something else. They just can't figure out how to ask.

Teapot13 Mon 04-Mar-13 18:10:04

Why would you assume the parents haven't tried? My DD is three and she keeps asking about things that I have explained numerous times because she just doesn't grasp them the first time, or maybe she wants the answer to be different. It's entirely possible the parents have given a sensitive answer and the kids ask anyway.

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

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


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

Greensleeves Mon 04-Mar-13 19:45:58

It does seem a bit unreasonable that you want others to broach something with their children that you don't want to with yours.

However it is different I think - explaining something hypothetical to a child isn't the same as tackling something that is personal and could cause your son to feel sad about his father.

I would probably talk to ds sooner rather than later anyway, as it is less painful to grow up knowing something from a young age than to find out about it suddenly. The fact is that his father does exist but is absent, and you can't shield him from it. Other children asking questions is annoying, but it is a reality, it would be even if everyone had these conversations earlier and you just need to accept it IMO.

MammaMedusa Mon 04-Mar-13 19:50:23

"I would probably talk to ds sooner rather than later anyway, as it is less painful to grow up knowing something from a young age than to find out about it suddenly"


I think it is like adoption, the great late revelation is so much worse than always knowing, so your understanding of it grows and matures, but it is never sprung on you as this new information.

DD1 is 4. She has trouble grasping fully that I am not DH's Mummy, nor am I MIL's Mummy (even though she knows that MIL is DH's Mummy), and she's obviously had a lot of reinforcement around that. I don't expect the abstract discussions we've had about different family dynamics to sink in any more thoroughly (also MIL lost my copy of The Family Book, which I used to read a lot to DS. Grrr.).

acceptableinthe80s Mon 04-Mar-13 19:54:15

Ok, I can see how others may not choose to read books on this subject to their children. I suppose i have because i didn't want my son to feel any different from children with two parents, therefore it was important to me to make him aware of diversity. I realize it's not everyone's priority and for that IABU.

I still don't see how i'm picking and choosing though. I'm perfectly happy to discuss ds's dad if he wants to. It's quite common for children with completely absent parents not to ask about them as often they've never met/can't remember them. I'm sure as ds gets older he'll have questions but not at the moment it would seem.

I've been told they do discuss family dynamics in school through books etc, and i still think it's important to discuss these things but like i said i can see why some people go with the talk about it as it happens approach.

MammaMedusa Mon 04-Mar-13 19:57:26

I am sure if you know good titles that your school will be happy to receive donations.

NumericalMum Mon 04-Mar-13 20:07:30

My DC has grown up in a very diverse nursery in London so I guess she has known a lot of this but has friends with no mummies, daddies etc and I do tell her that two mummies or two daddies could have children too. But she is 4 and questions are pretty common and annoying
And some days she asked the same ones about 70 times. I sometimes think she just likes the sound of her own voice!

Zavi Mon 04-Mar-13 20:24:27

YABU - because, whilst not unusual, your circumstances are not mainstream.

Let me ask you this: have you taught your DS about different sexualities, different religions, different diets, different school choices etc etc. Do you get my point?

I think what you need to do is to teach your DS how to manage when people inevitably ask him questions about his father, or about his family set-up.

The onus is on you to adapt, not others.

Teapot13 Mon 04-Mar-13 21:06:07

You have obviously put a lot of thought into how you discuss this with your son, and I would also want to shield my child from the fact that the father does not want contact with him. However, if other children are asking about it, I find it hard to believe that your son doesn't wonder. I would think it would be good to bring it up sooner rather than later -- he might be worried but not know what to say to you.

AmandaPayne Mon 04-Mar-13 21:21:59

There are a lot of forms of diversity around, family diversity is obviously important to you. But as Zavi points out, there is religion, diet, sexuality, disability.

I don't think that these things necessarily sink in where there isn't day to day applicability to their lives. Over the summer, we went to the Paralympics numerous times with DD1 (then 3.5). We talked a lot about disability. I thought that she understood, at least as much as she could at that age. Didn't stop her asking me very, very loudly "Why doesn't that lady have an arm" in a cafe last week. I whispered to her to remember the conversations we'd had about how some people are born differently, etc, etc. Later that same day, we were in a shop with a man whose legs had been amputated. Cue similar v loud question.

Added to which, as others have said, at this age they get all sorts of stuff in a muddle. DD1 asked me today whether she and her sister were in my tummy at the same time, despite being fully aware she is two years older.

MammaMedusa Mon 04-Mar-13 21:28:08

^^ Yes.

My DS has known my double amputee friend since he was born. Still didn't stop him saying LOUDLY when he was four "Mummy, where are her legs?"

And DD still thinks that my SIL and I might both have been in my mum's tummy at the same time. I and my mother are white, SIL is Ghanaian!

difficultpickle Mon 04-Mar-13 21:41:05

4 is a bit young but ds gets this all the time and he is now nearly 9. The child that was worse was in ds's school year but nearly a year older than ds and went on and on about ds not having a father. Parents did nothing despite knowing the circumstances and child would make lots of nasty comments and encourage others to do the same. Ds is at a different school now and the children there are curious but polite although I know it is something that deeply concerns ds.

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

superstarheartbreaker Mon 04-Mar-13 21:46:38

I think it IS the parents responsibilty to talk to the children about this kind of thing. Gosh ; it is very presumptious to assume that schools will cover it. I think there is a bit of a bubble mentality. I have seen a thread on here with a mum berating Jaqueline Wilson for 'always' protraying divorced parents etc. Shows a complete 'it won't happen to out little Waltons' mentality. YANBU op.

difficultpickle Mon 04-Mar-13 21:48:26

I would expect parents to talk to their dcs but unfortunately lots (including some of my relatives) leave all sorts to the school to deal with.

difficultpickle Mon 04-Mar-13 21:49:33

I'd add that ds has had to put up with not just the querying questions but also the 'what is wrong with you that you don't see your dad' comments too. They are just plain nasty and from children old enough to understand the hurt that causes.

MammaMedusa Mon 04-Mar-13 21:52:58

Absolutely parents should talk about things, everything they are asked about in fact. I am prepared to tell my children about all sorts of family set-ups, and have. Indeed within my own family and friends I don't have much choice!

But equally, no matter how much we talk about things, our children will ask questions. So the OP does need to prepare her son for that, too.

MammaMedusa Mon 04-Mar-13 21:54:19

Should add, I am responding to the OP having a four-year-old ask. Bullying and older children is very different.

Morloth Mon 04-Mar-13 21:57:04

We have had this conversation a couple of times when DS1 has brought up people who live in different set ups to ours. He has always been told that families/people come in all different arrangements/shapes/colours whatever and that it is all good.

At almost 9 he has pretty much grown out of the loud, awkward question age. Though at 3 I can remember him asking a friend's dad why he had black skin, and also asking a man we met who had no legs why that was. Both people were kind to a small child who was just interested and told him why. Now of course he knows that it is impolite to ask random strangers personal questions.

I can't say that I have ever chosen books that talk specifically about any subject really.

While our immediate nuclear family is Mum, Dad and 2 Kids - our extended family varies enormously.

I don't think I have ever actually brought the subject up, it has always been at DS1's instigation - other people's personal arrangement don't actually have that much bearing on our day to day lives.

Both DH and I are 'whatever floats your boat' type people. I just don't care that much how other people live as long as nobody is being abused etc.

Ginebra Mon 04-Mar-13 21:59:35

have had some outrageous questions from a four year old a couple of years back. my dc confused and hurt. stupid conservative family training their kids up to be conservative conformists

EmmaGellerGreen Mon 04-Mar-13 22:25:24

DS is 5 and I would discuss this if he asked me. We and everyone we know are "traditional families" - so it hasn't come up. It would be a fairly meaningless discussion really unless and until it becomes real to him. Maybe there are children from non-traditional families in his class, how would I know?

MidniteScribbler Tue 05-Mar-13 00:58:02

YABU on several matters. Children ask questions, no matter how often things are explained to them. So you are assuming that it's the parents who aren't telling them, when it's simply kids being kids. They also try and understand information within their own knowledge. I had one little girl in my class a couple of years ago who was the DD of a same sex couple. She kept asking other students where their "other mummy" was. She knew perfectly well that other families were different, but she still asked, because it was 'normal' to her to have two mothers. She wasn't malicious, she was simply trying to reference her normality with that of others. She's older now, and doesn't ask anymore. She's incorporated the knowledge in to her own understanding. It's how children learn.

Also, you are expecting other parents to stop their child asking very developmentally normal questions, because you are choosing not to give your son the information he needs to be able to deal with the question effectively. And I say this as the single mother of a donor conceived child. My DS is already being told about his "normal" so that as he grows, there won't be the shock of learning the information, he will simply know. Part of your upset at this can also be coming from your embarrassment at the situation. I made the decision when I had DS that I would be open and honest about his conception. I have no problems telling anyone that he is donor conceived, as if I'm embarrassed and trying to come up with a 'cover story' then he will feel that it is something to be embarrassed about. I want him to feel very confident saying "I don't have a daddy, I have a donor" when asked. Part of acknowledging that there are different types of families includes acknowledging that there is simply nothing wrong with how your much loved child came in to the world, and to do that you need to start being open and honest about it yourself.

AmberLeaf Tue 05-Mar-13 01:38:40

I think the child asking the question is 6 not 4?


If it were a one off, then yes fair enough, inquisitive minds an all that. But to keep on asking and in front of her Mum, YANBU to expect the Mum to speak to her DD about it.

I actually think it's a bit rude of her Mum to not say something.

Kytti Tue 05-Mar-13 03:12:41

I remember a similar toe-curling moment when my dd asked where her friend's Daddy was, she actually said, "when's your Daddy coming home from work?" Her friend replied "my Daddy lives with his other family and doesn't have a job." DD just said "Oh" and they happily carried on. I think the grown-ups were more embarrassed, well, I was.

I've always tried to explain different family dynamics, but at 4 I think you're expecting a bit much. It's nothing personal, small children are defined by their own lives, and if that means they have a Mum and Dad, they assume everyone else does too.

Gay40 Tue 05-Mar-13 13:52:08

I do think that you have to prepare children to answer questions like this, or you are putting them on the back foot (see my "stepmum" conversation) and little ones can't blag it like adults.

For example, someone asked my DD if her mum was a lesbian. She shrugged and said she didn't know. We had not used that word around her so she genuinely didn't know. When she reported this conversation to us, and we explained, the next time she was asked she just said "yep...what of it" nonchalantly. (End of conversation).
It's about equipping your own kids too for the curve ball questions.

KellyElly Tue 05-Mar-13 15:52:14

OP, I just explained to my DD (she's three) from a very young age that some children have a daddy and mummy in the same house and some children (like her) just live with mummy. She does see her dad and has from time-to-time asked why daddy doesn't live with us and I just say because daddy and mummy aren't together, but we both love you very much. To be honest, I would never have thought to address this situation if we weren't in it, which is probably why you are finding this is the case with 'traditional' families.

As long as you are always upfront and honest with your child in simple language they understand then they can answer those sorts of questions from other children. For example DD has a half sister from a relationship her dad had before me, she sees her every other Sunday, but obviously doesn't have a 'traditional' sibling relationship. When she was talking about her sister and an older child said 'she's not your real sister, she doesn't live at your house', DD said 'don't be silly, of course she's my sister, we've just got different mummys and she lives with her mummy and I live with my mummy'. She had the knowledge to answer the question because it's something we openly talk about, albeit in very simplistic terms.

mercibucket Tue 05-Mar-13 16:06:24

Why does the 6 year old keep asking the same question? To wind you or her mum up if she knows it's something she's not allowed to ask? Because she's not allowed to ask, so it's interesting? Because she hasn't had an answer yet? I'd imagine the average 6 year old knows plenty of children at school without dads on the scene.

TheYamiOfYawn Tue 05-Mar-13 16:08:07

I can't think of a single family I know in which all of the children/parents/grandparents/cousins/aunts/uncles live in a "traditional" family, if traditional means two able-bodied married parents, one male, one female.

Astley Tue 05-Mar-13 17:02:45

It's not something I've ever discussed with my DC. I've never considered it to be my responsibility to explain other people's family set ups. If they ask why someone doesn't live with their Daddy I will say that not everyone lives with both their parents, but I'm not going to be reading them stories about it hmm

Ginebra Thu 07-Mar-13 12:04:40

Astley are you the type of parent who can't even look at some animals in the zoo without bleating 'oh there's the mummy giraffe and the dddy giraffe and the bby giraffe!". Some parents are so conservative tht they are endlessly endlessly (without even realising it) compounding to their children the notion tht this is The.Way.It.Is.

nobody expects you to read stories about single prent families or gay families.. but it's in your ATTITUDE (or not as the case may be)

Ginebra Thu 07-Mar-13 12:10:33

@gay40, yeh i prepped my kids, 'next time somebody asks you where your fther is, just say *timbuktooshire. It's not secret!! ''i

i disagreee tht it's always kids being kids. i was asked what my x DID. by a four year old. a single parent friend who lives with her parents her dd was told by a child 'this isn't your house it's your grandparents house'. she overheard and said loudly 'excuse me, it's our home!'. tht same child asked my friend's child wht her father drove. what child wonders that? straight from the mother (in that particular case). that mother (smug married) ws quick enough to stride into the school when her children were being called fat.

DeWe Thu 07-Mar-13 13:57:39

Children expect everyone to be the same as themselves. My aunt had to wear callipers until she was about 5 or 6 and apparently one of her most frequent questions was "why haven't they got callipers like me?".

raspberryroop Thu 07-Mar-13 14:05:32

I have children with SN - I expect other children to be kind to my children, but I don't expect them to understand all the political/social ins and outs of our situation. To be honest I don't expect it of every adult. I explain about different relationships, ethnicities and life choices etc as they come up but I'm not going to get a book/do a sociology lesson just because your kid doesn't have a dad.

lainiekazan Thu 07-Mar-13 14:22:17

Ginebra - you sound very angry and bitter.

We have a traditional set-up, and I'm sure I would be "guilty" of the mummy and daddy elephant and baby or whatever. Actually, I probably wouldn't. I'd tell my dcs straight that dads in the wild are inclined to eat or trample on their young.

We spend our whole lives potentially putting our foot in it. We should all try to teach our dcs to be sensitive - to different family set-ups, to disabilities, to people's personal tragedies. But if someone asks a question - even if they are a small child - you can't be angry about it unless they are disparaging.

Owllady Thu 07-Mar-13 14:28:14

I tend to agree raspberryroop. I have a child with severe disabilities too and if my boys have children round sometimes they ask what is wrong with their sister and they can ask loads of questions. They are children, they are inquisitive, they want to learn about the world around them. I don't think it would do me any favours to get funny with their parents about it confused and maybe people don't explain because they just accept the situation and don't see it as unusual and just see you as you and him as a normal loving family

Katnisscupcake Thu 07-Mar-13 14:35:28

Unfortunately YABabitU because DCs will still ask... If you go down that route you will have soooo much to prepare them for! They're innocent questions to anything that may seem slightly different to a DC. Of course we'd all prefer that our DCs ask us first so that we can explain accordingly, rather then them asking the person/child direct, but that doesn't always happen. Like 'why do you have a fat tummy like Father Christmas Grandpa?' blush Not so sure my DF saw the funny side...

MiaowTheCat Thu 07-Mar-13 15:03:24

Sorry but no I'm not going to sit down and have some artificially constructed conversation trying to cover all possible permutations of family structure in the UK today with a pre-school age child in order not to put someone's nose out of joint... when it comes up, I'll deal with it there and then.

And I'm the child of a single parent myself so I've had the questions asked at me - for all those hoiking themselves in indignation by proxy - the questions didn't bother me, it was a simple "he doesn't live with us" and the conversation moved on (and considering I was fairly viciously bullied through lots of my childhood - it was never used as leverage for that either).

Owllady Thu 07-Mar-13 15:07:06

Miaow, my son (11) has even asked ME in the past why I don't have a Dad!

Ledkr Thu 07-Mar-13 15:18:12

It's very hard isn't it? I remember dd1 was so upset when her friend squashed her delight at her new baby sister by reminding her she was "only your half sister" so sad for her but I guess it can't be helped.
My dc wouldn't think to say anything like that because we've always been fairly laid back about it eg dh and ex good friends and my best friend is my ex sil.

midastouch Thu 07-Mar-13 15:29:21

At 4 surely you should expect questions llike that, i dont think i need to explain to my nearly 4 year oldl that some peopel dontn have daddys/mummys or have 2 daddy/mummys, hed probably forget 2 minutes later if i did.

Kewcumber Thu 07-Mar-13 15:39:36

I adopted DS as a single paretn, his birth mother gave false information on the birth cert and birth father was unnamed so we have no way of finding out anything about them. Additionally DS was relinquished at birth.

So is about as fatherless as its possible to get and we have been through the various phases of DS asking and other people asking.

At 4, he was happy with "we don;t have a Daddy in our family". No further discussion - if pushed he would say we do have a Nanny and an uncle Ian and a ....

By 6 it had morphed into "I do have a father. EVERYONE has a father. Mine lives a long way away and we don't see him".

Your child needs to learn and to role play with you different answers until he finds one he is happy with then he can repeat it very firmly ad nauseum if necessary. You can never assume every child is aware of every family permutation so the onus is on you to make sure your child is equipped to deal with it.

If you think explaining and absent father is tricky, you want to try having a 6 yr old asked in school "why did your REAL mum give you away?".

(Although I think YABU, you have my sympathy as it can be hard to watch your child struggling with difference - harder than going through it yourself I think)

I don't understand why it's such a big deal? Surely loads of us MNers were brought up in 2.4 children families, with mummy and daddy, and back then it wouldn't have necessarily been explained to us about the six million possible combinations, yet we don't have issues with different families? at least I know I don't, and I like to think none of you do either

Kewcumber Thu 07-Mar-13 15:43:04

And I am assured by the school that despite there not being one other single paretn family in DS's class in reception - that will certainly be a good few of them by the end of school!

MrsBethel Thu 07-Mar-13 15:59:01


They ask a question, they get an answer. Get over it.

working9while5 Thu 07-Mar-13 16:14:09

"Astley are you the type of parent who can't even look at some animals in the zoo without bleating 'oh there's the mummy giraffe and the dddy giraffe and the bby giraffe!". Some parents are so conservative tht they are endlessly endlessly (without even realising it) compounding to their children the notion tht this is The.Way.It.Is. "

Erm... are you kidding Ginebra?

I grew up in Very Catholic Ireland (before it all went laissez-faire) with my parents not only separated but in new relationships so I can tell you now, there were questions pretty much All. The. Time. We didn't even have divorce and I had to listen to people preaching on about how evil it was all the time. There were certain people who wouldn't let their children play with me, as though this "broken family" syndrome might be somehow catching hmm.

I still point out mummy, daddy and baby giraffes! I do this because it links to MY children's current experience, and young children (and I am thinking under 8 here) are pretty pants at understanding relationships except within the context of their own experience.

I also have NO intention of explaining "non traditional family set ups" to my children unless it comes up naturally in conversation (which, having worked with kids for most of my life, I know it eventually will).

Let's talk about the elephant in the room here. The majority of the time "non-traditional family set-ups" arise out of heartbreak: death, abandonment, separation. While a huge amount of families go on to have much better lives, to explain to an under-8 in any sort of concrete way why that happens unless it comes up in natural conversation is not going to be an easy thing to do. It's one thing to say "Johnny's daddy doesn't live with him, he sees him on Saturdays" or "Ben's mum got very poorly and died, just like your granny did" in order to explain questions about an actual Johnny or an actual Ben, but to just randomly introduce the idea of loss, death and separation as it is politically correct to do so is, in my opinion, slightly nuts. As if kids don't worry enough about abandonment in their own way anyway without planting in their heads that parents die and leave and never come back for no other reason than to "prepare" them for the realities of life? Don't think I want that for my kids right now.

pingu2209 Thu 07-Mar-13 16:18:44

Oh dear that is a shame that it hurts your child and you. I am from a 'traditional' family and we have broached the subject of different types of family when it comes up - rather than a big conversation.

4 is very young and they are making sence of their world around them. It was probably a very curious question with no mallor.

My son's best friend's parents divorsed and when they moved home and his friend (age 7) lived with his mother in a smaller house I 'coached' my son to be sensitive to his friend's feelings and that all families are different etc. The first thing he said when we visited at the new home was "I won't ask you why your mum and dad don't love each other any more because it may upset you!"

I was mortified. The mother was pretty angry. I had the best of intentions in explaining the differences etc, but even at 7 they call a spade a spade!

Ginebra Thu 07-Mar-13 16:53:17

I am not angry and bitter. my kids can be trusted not to go in to school and say "are you fat? " "why are you fat?" "you have a patch over one eye" or whatever. these same kids havent got the common decency not to interrofate my kids. its not bitterness to notice that there is an irony there. howcridiculous to label somebody who has experiences you dont have "bitter" . maybe we should go round in circles and i could call you immature.

Ginebra Thu 07-Mar-13 17:00:54

Reading the smugness on this thread though.. eg, "why should i teach my children about non-traditional families?" (wow, im alright jack), makes me throw my hands up. next time my son tells me *harvey says ive no dad, instead of a long diplomatic careful speech about how harvey doesnt know any better, i think ill say "he is rude and he is fat and his granddad has been convicted for ¢¥£€$ {><_ ^][}>". well i guess i wont but all the sensitivity and diplomacy comes from my end. and i wonder why i bother reading this thread.

The way I see it though Ginebra, is there is a very big difference between not teaching your kids anything about particular possible scenarios, but teaching them a good basis of right and wrong, and slagging off all your friends and neighbours in front of your kids so they pick up on it and repeat the bad bits.

My (not very clear!) point being, that if other kids are being nasty to yours, there is obviously more of a problem than their parents simply not teaching them that its possible for a family to have, one mum, two mums, one dad, two dads, a mum and a dad, a mum and step dad, a dad and step mum, adoptions, fostering, brothers, sisters, twins, triplets, step siblings, half siblings etc etc etc

Ginebra Thu 07-Mar-13 17:29:36

Yes... ive been unlucky with one insufferably smug 3.4 family that live nearby and go to the same school. the parents clearly do consider themselves better and the attitude filters down. but my kids are better looking, nicer, sportier, more sensitivevand more diplomatic for sure! i guess it will all be alright in the end. simple questions i dont mind. it's when you know that your honest matter of fact answer has relegated you in their eyes, that's what is hard to stomach. but actuallt there is only one family i have in mind. she is the exception. i think because het "respectabikity' is nouveau :-p her parents crimes are not her fault but i think she sets a lot of store into being respectable. i am hearing mel n kim in my head now .

MiaowTheCat Thu 07-Mar-13 17:31:23

God you've got a chip on your shoulder... if anyone is making this an issue for your child - it's you. Kids ask stuff - it's part of what they do and how they learn about the world - sometimes they ask a couple of times as they weren't listening the first time, or they've forgotten or other more interesting stuff's pushed it out of their mind... they get an answer and they move on. They're very accepting of the fact that some people have different members of their family around to others - hell, I overheard in a school playground as the classes were going in a conversation along the lines of, "That your dad who dropped you off this morning?" ...."Yeah".... "Oh, he was my dad last week"... "Oh... what are we going to play at breaktime." It only becomes an issue when someone goes rampaging all over it telling kids that "OMG YOU CAN'T ASK THAT!"

I regularly used to get the "why are you so big" or "is that a baby in your tummy" comments from kids because I'm fat - I didn't go all up in arms about that one either - my reply to the baby one was usually, "No, it's just cake in there."

And yes for there to be a baby giraffe there has to have been a mummy giraffe and a daddy giraffe and I'm not aware of soaring giraffe divorce rates or a giraffe version of the Jeremy Kyle show banging out DNA tests in case mummy giraffe got it on with the parakeet in the next enclosure - so I think it's a fairly ridiculous thing to get a chip on your shoulder about to be honest.

It's the sort of thing best dealt with when it comes up in a relevant context - so god no I'm not going to factor in "the talk" about single parents, same sex parents, absent parents and gawd knows what else as something to be planned about - when I get asked about "Oh Johnny doesn't have a dad at his house" it'll come up then.

insancerre Thu 07-Mar-13 17:48:02

what a lot of fuss over nothing
children ask questions because it's how they learn things and make sense of the world. That obviously starts from what they know and what is normal for them. They then learn that other people are different and ask questions because they need to.It helps them make sense of it in their heads, including putting their own circumstances into perspective.

Ginebra Thu 07-Mar-13 18:07:23

It's that step beyond just questions that is unacceptable imo. obviously all children ask questions. it is very easy to telk if they r innocent questions or if they have come from above. in one of my children's classes there is another single parent and we have both identified the same 'crossing the line' from the same quarter. maybe this woman and i both have the exact same shaped "chip" !! or maybe we are in a position to judge more accurately the sentiment behind comments made to us/our kids/in our heari.g.p

Bonsoir Thu 07-Mar-13 18:10:31

I think that you are being unreasonable to expect families with small DC of 4 to have primed them not to ask another DC where their Daddy or Mummy are.

MiaowTheCat Thu 07-Mar-13 18:12:53

You're the one on here referring to people in other family structures point blank as "unsufferably smug"... but THAT'S acceptable apparently.

JamieandtheMagicTorch Thu 07-Mar-13 18:18:57

What this seems to boil down to, OP, from what I have understood, is that the repeat questioning comes from one 6 year old child, who has been asked not to keep asking, but persists (for reasons we do not know, not because she's a brat).

I don't see how you can extrapolate from that in the way you have done.

I think you might feel less irritated by this if you had a stock response which would satisfy the child. And more importantly, as others have said, if it was something you could talk about with your son.

Ginebra Thu 07-Mar-13 18:29:14

my children don't go in to school and tell them they are insufferably smug!

I can't win this one. The majority rules, and if you point out to the majority that there wilful conservatism can cause hurt, then you have a chip on your shoulder. I have actually met the people i'm venting about! i have that advantage.

it isn't something that bothers me any more. i have prepped my kids as i said earlier. The smug woman knows everything now, and most people are not so judgemental and insufferable.

JamieandtheMagicTorch Thu 07-Mar-13 18:29:24

"Why does the 6 year old keep asking the same question? To wind you or her mum up if she knows it's something she's not allowed to ask? Because she's not allowed to ask, so it's interesting? Because she hasn't had an answer yet? I'd imagine the average 6 year old knows plenty of children at school without dads on the scene"

I agree with that ^ mercibucket

We met a gay couple on holiday and my boys got on really well with theirs. It wasn't something we had discussed, but when I mentioned that the ladies were the boys parents (we were talking about nationalities and this came into it - it waasn't a formal discussion about alternative family set ups), my 7yo said, "Oh that's gay!". I said, yes, quite ...some people have 2 mummies and some have 2 daddies and some have one of each....

And we moved on to the next question...

One of the women spoke about how questions about Daddy had impacted on her son...he had accepted quite easily that his Daddy was a donor....although he told everyone he was a Donut.

They know some people have no mum / dad....they know my mum died....but I don't think this is a topic for a Big Discussion, it is more about general politeness and respect.

JamieandtheMagicTorch Thu 07-Mar-13 18:45:37


I believe that you have met prejudiced or insensitive people. What I question is whether a child's (and in this case, one child) question is evidence of parental prejudice or smugness.

Ginebra Thu 07-Mar-13 19:04:38

I think the kids of this particular woman are either 1) just as nosey and judgemental and as keen to pidgeon-hole people as she is.... (which I can't believe, cos really kids don't actually care, or 2) the mother is encouraging them to fish for info which will help her file other people in the correct column. the 'other single parent' in the class agrees! we've discussed it. Thankfully most people take you as you are. But NOT all.

In the case of the 6 yo child who keeps asking about the OPs DSs father, what answer have you actually given? If its "he doesn't have one" then that won't make sense to her so it wouldn't be surprising that she keeps asking.

OTOH "he lives far away and we don't see him" may give her the "proper" answer she needs and understands.

I have no plans to specifically teach my children about different family set ups. If it comes up, it gets discussed matter of factly as do other subjects such as disabities etc. No need to make a fuss.

mummytime Thu 07-Mar-13 19:29:42

4 year olds aren't good at being tactful. A 6 year old might keep asking because no-one has answered her. On the other hand some children with som SN/SENs will ask or say the same thing over, and over and over; regardless of how much their parents try to stop them.

Astley Thu 07-Mar-13 20:01:16

Haha Ginebra hmm I think you clearly have a lot of your own issues here.

It isn't my responsibility. That's just a fact. I will tell them some families are different from ours if and when it comes up but I will not be sitting my child down and doing through every single possible situation just so other parents don't actually need to bother explaining to their OWN child where their Father is.

Children ask questions. Get over it.

Astley Thu 07-Mar-13 20:07:28

And yes if I see a family of giraffes I may well say to my children 'the one with the darker spots is the Mummy, the larger one is the Daddy and the little one is their baby'

What would you rather? 'Look there DD, there is a female giraffe and her female giraffe partner and their donor created baby giraffe.' Just in case? Sometimes if it looks like a rock, feels like a rock etc it might just be a rock. Why should I make life confusing for young children just to make a point?

Dromedary Thu 07-Mar-13 20:11:38

Maybe it's time to talk to your DC about their father? He may not be very interested, but at least he'll know the basic facts. You can keep it short and basic at this stage, and he can ask questions later when he's ready. He is bound to be asked about this at nursery and then school.

Ginebra Thu 07-Mar-13 20:37:38

Astley, I dont think you have read my posts properly. I don't have 'issues' thank you.

difficultpickle Thu 07-Mar-13 21:30:28

Maybe it is just our personal experience but neither ds nor I know another child who doesn't have contact with his father. That covers nursery and two different primary schools. As far as ds is concerned he is in a unique position and other children like to point that out.

Dromedary Thu 07-Mar-13 21:57:29

I'd expect that if you talk to your DC from very early about his circumstances, he will grow up relaxed about it and confident about talking about it. That will be very helpful, as others are bound to ask about it, perhaps even when he is an adult. He may quickly learn to shut down questions if he doesn't want to go into all the details.
Bullies will pick on any difference they find, so the odd nasty child may pick on this difference to get at him. If he is secure about it, then they are less likely to use it to pick on him.

difficultpickle Thu 07-Mar-13 22:07:47

I don't think it matters how much you talk to you child about why he is different to all his peers. Most children growing up have an overwhelming urge to be just like all their peers. The ones that aren't are viewed by the majority as odd and different. There is little you can do about that unless the parents of your dc's peers are open about families not all consisting of a mum and a dad.

Dromedary Thu 07-Mar-13 23:20:14

My experience is that if you are totally relaxed with your children about their family circumstances, giving them no sense that you feel bad about it, and are open about all the details they are interested in from when they are very young, it is not much of an issue for them. However, I think that this may change for some children in teenagerhood, when being the same as others becomes more important.
Although my children come from a non-typical family, that doesn't mean that they are easily tolerant of other people's differences. I have explained to my DC, aged 10, a number of times that being gay is perfectly natural, some children have 2 gay parents, etc etc, but she still finds the idea of someone being gay "yuck". I'm hoping that she'll grow out of this soon. Children aren't born understanding people who are different from themselves, and just telling them about different family structures won't necessarily stop the teasing.

MidniteScribbler Fri 08-Mar-13 00:05:48

I'm a single mother, my son is donor conceived and I would probably still say "there's the mummy giraffe, the daddy giraffe and the baby giraffe". It does no good for my child to pretend that fathers don't exist. They are a huge part of our society and the lives of many children, so he's going to have to face the fact at some point. Just like he'll know that one of his friends has two daddies, and another lives with his grandmother. It will just be part of his life.

If you put your head in the sand, something's going to come along and bite you on the arse.

Spottyblancmange Fri 08-Mar-13 00:39:02

I just completely want to echo whoever said a few pages back about telling them from earlier rather than waiting for them to ask.

I say that as someone who made that mistake.

My DD's father was never interested, I met DP when she was quite young and although I have never, ever let her think DP is her biological father, she knew I'd met him after she was born and he wasn't always there, I left talking about her biofather until she asked, which happened just after she'd started school and talking about families in more detail lead to the penny dropping for her. It was horrendous because it meant every single question and aspect came up in one conversation, the first question lead to more and more and more, and with the benefit of hindsight I know it would have been better for everyone if it had always been in the background, just like DP not always having been there was.

louisianablue2000 Fri 08-Mar-13 00:54:32

From a child it's ok, from an adult not so much. When DD1 was about 2 or 3 she went through a stage of repeatedly asking where her Dad to which I patiently answered 101 times a day 'he's at work, he'll be home for tea'. We were in a cafe one Tuesday afternoon and she was asking this question again and again. At one point the waitress came up and heard her ask and said 'yes, where is Daddy?'. Silly cow was told what for quite forcefully so hopefully she'll never again ask a frazzled Mum an intrusive question.

Beamur Fri 08-Mar-13 01:05:27

(Haven't read all the thread so apols if needed)
Where I live, I'm aware of several same sex couples with children at the same school as DD, so I decided to talk to her in advance of her asking questions or upsetting said kids with an innocent remark. There are also several children whose parents have split up, and as a family, DD also has 'half' siblings so these are not unusual ideas for her to deal with.
What is rather sweet though, is how unquestioningly DD and her friends have accepted these various circumstances as quite normal and acceptable. DD and her best (female) friend are now planning on getting married when they are older. From that, I'd say that talking to the kids early on has made them less judgemental of 'difference' which must make it easier on the children who are part of less 'conventional' family set ups.
Children do have the capacity to throw you though, however well prepared you think you/they are. DD's Father and I are still very much together, yet once while DD and I were walking along, a man walked past us and she very loudly asked if that was her Daddy....luckily, the chap in question thought this was pretty funny.

Kytti Fri 08-Mar-13 01:21:24

One of my dt's keeps telling everyone her Daddy's gone. "No, my Daddy's gone. He's not here anymore." He's actually at work. (sigh) But that's how she explains it. She's 3.

My elder 2 children were discussing getting married (yes, aren't I a smug traditionalist?) and ds says "you can't marry x, girls can't get married to girls!" dd replies "yes they can, because Sue and Peggy (v good friends of ours, the names have been changed to protect the innocent) are married, and they're both girls." "Oh, OK" says ds. On they went with their game and ds now knows same-sex couples are OK.

I've never sat them down and discussed it either. I don't think I have to. What I do need to do is answer their questions honestly and as objectively as I can.

Morloth Fri 08-Mar-13 01:38:09

I am "I'm alright Jack' about our family set up. Because it is alright.

Other people's arrangements are none of my business and are therefore not my problem and if they are not my problem then they are not my business.

I do the giraffe thing, that is our reality and it is a good reality.

Little kids are still learning the social rules, they don't get it right all the time. They do however grow out of asking personal questions in inappropriate moments if you teach them to.

And we come back to Not My Business/Problem.

Stickwithit Fri 08-Mar-13 01:46:31

I've talked about this with DS (5). Each time we talk about it he seems to grasp the concepts, including the fact that DP (who is DS' daddy) and I aren't married but live together and love each other very much.

However despite my best efforts he still tells me that 'x' or 'y''s daddy does not live with them as if it is unusual, and he still assumes DP and I are married.

I help in school which means the children are aware that I have a different surname to DS. This causes much hilarity amongst the children as they, (including DS), just don't get it.

What I am trying to say is that sometimes, despite parents' best efforts to educate their children about this type if thing, it does take a while to sink in. partly because they have so many external influences incorrectly stereotyping the typical family, and partly because at such a young age they struggle to imaging that everyone else doesn't have the same family set up as themselves.

StanleyLambchop Fri 08-Mar-13 09:20:59

My DD was teased in reception because one girl said she could not have a daddy because he had never picked her up from school (he is at work!) The following week she was teased because we didn't have a car, based on the premise that this girl had never seen DD being driven up to school (we live 2 minutes walk away!) Some kids will always find something to tease /question others about. I have taught my DD to shrug it off. BUT-as I am not with her all the time, I have no idea if she goes arround saying similar to other children!! So I would not be too smug that your own children will not do the same to others when they are out of your ear-shot. Kids are kids!

I think the "Not my business/ problem" attitude can be pretty problematic in itself.

For example I did my teacher training in a small village school in Devon and felt there was an attitude that we don't need to teach about multi-culturalism or equality or the problems of racism here because it doesn't come up (we're all white here) And yet there was one boy in the school who was Chinese and he did get bullied by some other children. As a student teacher I did what I could to raise these issues - which actually came up very naturally in the topic we were looking at - it was about "Food" so provided a good opportunity to look at slavery in the context of the sugar triangle etc.

Where issues don't seem to come up naturally as often it can be even more important to make sure they are addressed.

My DD too considered the possibility of marrying her best friend. And why not ?!
We're cool with it.

QuickLookBusy Fri 08-Mar-13 09:47:54

I think most dc do come across different families-RL, TV, books, in their own families.

But I think it wouldn't matter how "exposed" a 4yo was, they would still be inquisitive enough to ask the question "where's your Dad?". To them there could be a lot of answers- at work, living down the road, living in another town, in the army etc etc. I think they are just asking a normal question.

Morloth Fri 08-Mar-13 19:35:00

Racism is everyone's business and problem.

Other people's personal arrangements are not.

You can teach kids that people can do whatever they like as long as they are not hurting anyone and not get down to specifics.

Well Morloth, the way I'd see it is that acceptance of diversity (including within families) is everyone's issue.

Obviously I see an analogy with the issues of racism, hence my post.

Morloth Fri 08-Mar-13 20:04:31

Diversity is good and best achieved I believe by letting people be.

I simply dont care how people set up their own lives and I expect the same in return.

What right do I have to have an opinion (negative) or otherwise on how a family is structured? If the children in the family are OK (loved and safe), then as far as I am concerned it is all good.

I dont need to understand why soneone wants to live as they do in order to support their right to do so.

difficultpickle Fri 08-Mar-13 23:20:28

I still think it doesn't matter how open you are about why your child does not have a father in their life it won't change the fact that they are different from the majority of their peers. Very very few children want to stand out. Most want to be the same as their friends. If their friends have mummies and daddies and they don't, for whatever reason, they will feel different.

I think it is important for children to know that the life they live may not be the same as some of their friends. However that education should be done without judgment and that is the problem. Some people like to think their way is the only way and pass on those attitudes to their children who then demonstrate that in school in the comments and questions they say to those who are different from them. sad

Dromedary Fri 08-Mar-13 23:51:02

bisjo, out of interest, at what age do you find that children feel bad about not having a father because it makes them different from their friends? Teenage or earlier?
My DC1, age 10, sometimes comments on how her life is different, and so much more interesting, than the lives of her friends. For instance in that they all have technology (games etc) and she doesn't, and that means that she spends her time doing much more exciting stuff. The different family set up she is in doesn't bother her at all yet. This may change. My younger child is more aware of differences and I think it does bother her a bit, in a "the grass is greener" kind of way.

difficultpickle Sat 09-Mar-13 00:05:54

Way earlier. Ds has asked questions about his father since he was 2.5. He realised he was different from his school friends at the age of 4, he was quizzed and hurt by questions from the age of 5 and that continues. He is 8. He is incredibly mature for his age and appreciates that some children are curious to the point of rudeness and that is from ignorance or are simply parrotting what their parents say. Personally I find it hardest when dcs ask him questions and make comments in front of their parents and their parents say nothing when their children are being really unpleasant.

However the absolute worst are those parents who say things to their dcs about ds thinking their little darlings won't repeat it to ds (which of course they do). The majority of children are absolutely fine but ds did have a problem with a small core of children at his school and that was completely down to the attitude of his parents.

I've raised ds to appreciate that everyone is different and has different attitudes and that doesn't mean there is a right way or a wrong way to live your life. He has been exposed to spectacular privilege but also witnessed first hand (in Africa) immense poverty. He is growing up to be a caring and tolerant boy who thinks deeply and is incredibly caring. He is different to his friends and part of that may be because he has no contact with his father but I also think he would be different anyway, just the type of character he is. For whatever reason he is a child that people remember meeting and talking to.

Dromedary Sat 09-Mar-13 00:23:12

He sounds great - we certainly need more people who are different in a good way, think for themselves, etc. It's possible that your DS would find the family difference easier to cope with if he wasn't an only child - that may be a part explanation for why my 2 DCs are less bothered about being different. I also think that people we know have been more effective about talking behind our backs rather than to our faces, than those you describe. But I do think that there has been some prejudice (with people not stating the reason for it). It can help to make friends with others who are different in some way, or just have a different attitude from others and are not in a local clique. I've noticed that I tend to make friends with people from overseas, with less parochial viewpoints.

Kayano Sat 09-Mar-13 09:02:53

Don't wait for him to ask and just never mention a potential father figure to him. Be honest. I'm adopted and there were loads of books explaining different family set ups.

However we used them as well as from an early age (3) being told the truth about the situation. If you just tell him but then say you love him enough for two then he will be totally used to the idea and not get an unpleasant surprise when he is a bit older and realisation starts to dawn on him.

But I've never been in your a
Shoes, I just think if I hadn't grown up knowing the truth I would have probably been more disappointed when I realised and had to ask for myself. He will need to know his father is not a closed topic

My great-aunt was a single parent in the 1950s. She raised her daughter alone and her daughter went on to marry and have two children who are now in their late 30s/40s. However, it was only last year when my great-aunt was eighty-eight years old that anyone asked her about her daughter's father, even down to what his name was. She'd been waiting for her daughter or grandchildren to raise the subject, while they'd been assuming that as she'd never brought it up it was something she didn't want to talk about. Eventually my mother (who knew that the granddaughter was curious) sat them down together, initiated the conversation and left them to it.

difficultpickle Sat 09-Mar-13 10:25:30

The one thing I have been careful to do is not give too many details to ds about his father. He knows his name and where he lives as it is on his birth certificate but other than that he doesn't know anything else. I don't want his father to become a real person to him as that will just make it harder on ds when he cannot see his father. Keeping as a somewhat empheral figure works better. What I have never done is lie to ds and I have always done my best to answer ds's questions honestly. What I also have never said to ds is tell him what his father called him the last time we spoke - "the non-aborted foetus". That was when ds was 5 and I was still in contact with his father and trying to encourage him to see ds.

The one positive is ds has friends whose parents are divorced, some acrimoniously so, so he understands that it is better not to have contact with his father than to experience his parents fighting through him as some of his friends have to deal with.

I think ds is pretty well adjusted all things considered.

IfNotNowThenWhen Sat 09-Mar-13 10:56:31

I think that children WILL ask questions about each others lives, from the age of 4 or so, and that is absolutely fine.
Obvs, if a child is being actually rude, they need to be be pulled up on it, but simple curiosity is fine.

It's good to let children know that all families are different, just like it's good to let them know that people come in different shapes and sizes etc .

However, in your case OP, I do think that it's you who are feeling a little sensitive on the subject of your ds's dad, and are understandably worrying about him feeling different.

I agree with Kewcumber in that it is your responsibility to talk it through with him, and find out if he has any questions. Also, to make sure he knows that he can ask you anything at any time.
What you don't want, is to build his fatherless state into a big thing, something he senses he should be ashamed of.
I am very casual with my ds about the fact that his dad doesn't live with us, and doesn't see him much.
It's just how it is. When he was small, if he encountered a dad at a friends house, he always assumed they were visiting! When he started school, and realised most kids live with their dads, he did feel a bit strange about it, but again, I am very matter of fact, and don't make the <sadface> when we discuss other family set ups, and our own.
I used to feel a bit uncomfortable meeting other school mum's etc , being the ONLY singleton in ds's class, but the better I have got to know them, the more I can see that a "normal" set up can be quite strange too!

Sorry, rambling, but do you see what I am saying?
Yes, it's nice when parents teach tolerance, but you have to be comfortable in your own skin, and your own little family. Then ds will feel comfortable too, and it won't matter what anyone else thinks.

Happymum22 Sat 09-Mar-13 12:15:45

My DC's father left me when they were 2, 7, 10 and 15, he saw them infrequently and had a particularly bad relationship with the older two. Even the eldest two used to get comments like that. DD10 came home in tears one day as they were doing a DT project which involved making a mini fairground ride. Something needed screwing together and the teacher suggested one of their dads could help them that night. Another girl persistently had told DD 'Can't your dad do it' 'Why not?' 'You must be lying you can't just not see your dad' and then this girl got in a strop with DD. I had helped my DC learn how to explain to others their situation.

The number of other incidents like this was huge and it really upset my DC however much I tried to explain some families are different and so their DC find it hard to understand. When DC are young, I agree, they can say silly things however much their parents reinforce about differences. But by aged 8 I'd expect DC to really understand.

DS had a teacher when he was in sixth form, I couldn't attend parents evening (I was a teacher at the time and had to attend a parents evening at my own school) and so DS told her. She said 'can't your father attend' DS explained his father never sees him and lives far away. She came back with 'Oh, i'd still think he could come or your mother would manage to organise her commitments bettwe. never mind.' DS was furious and took it upon himself to speak to the headmaster about the teachers insensitivity.

IfNotNowThenWhen Sat 09-Mar-13 16:17:46

Jesus happymum. Depressing to hear some teachers can still be so insensitive. Good for your ds though [ds]

IfNotNowThenWhen Sat 09-Mar-13 16:18:38

That was meant to be smile

<was temporarily distracted!>

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now