Tips for LGBTQ Parents Raising Adopted Children
When you are a parent who identifies as LGBTQ, it’s easy to feel alone and even unsupported as you navigate issues of parenting your adopted child. LGBTQ parenting is becoming much more common, but you might still have questions about HOW to be a good parent and WHERE to get support from resources that understand your unique challenges and family dynamics. Becoming a parent through adoption can add extra layers and needs, but help is available.
First, let’s talk about a few of the challenges LGBTQ parents may face.
Talking About Sex
One of the most common challenges that same-sex parents face is how to talk with their kids of the opposite gender about puberty, sexual development, and sex. Throughout the ages, plenty of dads have talked with their daughters and plenty of moms have talked with their sons about these topics regardless if they are straight or gay. The library is full of great resources to help get the conversation moving. But even if a LGBTQ parent feels perfectly comfortable with having these conversations regardless of the gender of their child, they may also want to enlist the help of a close friend or family member who is the same gender as the child for additional support.
Consider having a conversation in advance with that friend to make sure you are all on the same page for transmitting values, options, and resources. Have a conversation with your child about the specific person or two that you and your spouse or partner feel are “safe spaces” for your child to explore these topics. Offer to facilitate coffee-dates or time away to have those conversations.
Finding Role Models
Another common challenge same-sex parents experience is the presence of a role model of the same gender as their child. For example, when you are two moms raising a boy, you want you son to see good examples of how men relate, how men think and move in this world.
It’s a great idea to talk with your partner if you have one to identify a role model you can trust with your child. Have that conversation in advance, with both your child and the adult that you would ask to mentor your child. Even better would be finding someone who shares interests or hobbies that your child enjoys. Big Brother and Sister organizations and scouting are both reliable options for finding same gender role models.
If you are also parenting an adopted child of another race, you must find someone of that race to be a role model for your child.
LGBTQ parents also face discrimination from people who don’t approve of their family dynamic or of their choice to adopt and raise children. Many misconceptions still exist in our society around issues of nurture, masculinity, femininity, and other related parenting skills.
Your children must see a wide variety of parenting models to help normalize your belief that families don’t have to look alike. Again, if you are an LGBTQ family and parenting an adopted child of another race, there are added layers of racial issues to which you must attend.
How To Address The Challenges
Again, the good news is that those challenges are not insurmountable. Here are several tips to help you address the challenges of parenting an adopted child as an LGBTQ parent.
Keep talking – Keep the channels of communication between you and your child open. Make yourself accessible to your child. Be willing to facilitate time with the “safe adults,” role models, or mentors that you’ve found for your child. Talk about sex, race, politics, and family dynamics openly. Discuss how to respond to racism, discrimination, and bullying. Talk about the fun stuff of their age and stage of life as well!
Educate yourself – Read books on issues your family faces. Find age-appropriate children’s books that portray adoption, same-sex families, and related topics. Stock your family library with a wide variety of media that supports the diversity and inclusion that you want your child to understand and live. Seek out resources that portray kids as heroes or that give principled lessons consistent with your values.
Get Involved – Your child’s teacher has a finger on the pulse of the issues facing kids that age. Build a relationship with your child’s teacher so that he understands the challenges your family faces. Offer to educate others in your school community about your family’s make-up.
Find Your Village – Get plugged into a community of other adoptive parents and other LGBTQ parents to find connections. You (and your partner if you have one) need peers who “get it.” Find groups that include children of many ages and cultures, so your child can see other families who look like yours – he needs to know he is not alone.
Seek Diversity – Don’t just focus on seeking out LGBTQ communities – especially if your adopted child is of another race. By joining other communities, you show your child that you value open-mindedness, tolerance, and diversity.
Teach Self-Advocacy – It’s tempting to step in quickly when you perceive harm to your child. But if you do so too fast, you can short-circuit your child’s ability to learn conflict resolution and self-advocacy. Teach your child how to stand up for himself. Equip him to ask for help when he feels in over his head. Applaud attempts to do either and consider role-playing together for the next time a difficulty arises.
For more support in the issues related to raising adopted kids as an LGBTQ parent, consider the resources by Creating a Family.