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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?

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 .

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