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Teaching Tolerance: How Parents Can Help

Teaching Tolerance: How Parents Can Help

These days, it's hard to throw around the word "typical" when talking about the American family. With so many variations on what was once the nuclear norm, including blended families, "grandfamilies," and families led by a single parent or by a lesbian or gay couple, the definition of that term is constantly broadening.

In particular, the growing number of lesbian and gay couples raising children together is now a firmly established trend in the United States: In 2000, the Census Bureau reported that there are almost 770,000 gay and lesbian coupled households, up 314 percent from 1990, and that 20 percent of these households, or 155,400 couples, are raising children together.

“By the time my daughter heard the word ‘gay‘ on the playground at school, she already had many lesbian friends in her life whom she loved dearly, so it was not hard to explain to her about how some people love people of their own sex," says Rebecca G., who had a lesbian partner but has since ended the relationship. "But her life got so much harder when we moved to a small town in a western state where homophobia was rampant. She really struggled for years."


It can be difficult for straight parents to help their kids navigate these shifts, especially because there aren’t a lot of resources for understanding families who seem, on the surface at least, to be different. As Circle of Mom members explain, the best bet is to teach tolerance by example.

Linda O. says she's baffled by negative misconceptions about and ostracism of gay families. Parents need to actively teach their kids to “have tolerance and acceptance" towards gay families, she says.

Chicago teacher Tina Fakhrid-Deen shares ways to increase acceptance for gay families in her new book, “Let’s Get This Straight: The Ultimate Handbook for Youth with LGBTQ Parent," which includes reflections on her experience growing up as the child of a lesbian mother. But, as she tells WBEZ public radio, she wants to help knock down the stereotypes surrounding gay families and help all parents and kids have greater understanding of and compassion for families that are "different."

We turned to Fakhrid-Dean and Circle of Mom community members to share tips on what to do and to say to help teach acceptance and tolerance when kids ask about gay families. Here are some of their suggestions:

  • Immediately address negative or uncomfortable feelings about gay families that your children may share.
  • Explain to them that people should be proud of their individuality.
  • Talk about how upsetting it must be for gay families when people discriminate against them.

Elizabeth B. a mom of six ranging from teenage to nine months, and a member of Moms Supporting Gay Marriage, uses these tactics to instill acceptance of differences in her children. She says, “I constantly reinforce that everyone has a right to make their own life choices and to be happy. I would be just as happy if my children were gay or lesbian or straight, makes no difference to me as long as they are happy and their partner is a good and decent human being that truly loves my child. We can change the world by raising accepting and loving children.”

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.

Join The Conversation
LindzMiller LindzMiller 6 years
I think it's a personal choice and just because someone is gay or lesbian it should not be linked to how good of a parent they may be or not be. being gay or lesbian is not a disease or contagious. Just because you might not accept their lifestyle choices doesn't mean they are bad people. all children deserve a happy healthy home environment with loving parents weither they be a mommy and mommy or daddy& daddy or a mommy & daddy. Being negative and angry over how someone is, is the dumbest thing I've ever heard. If your not gay good for you, why spread angry into the world over something that has nothing to do with you.
deniseward32337 deniseward32337 6 years
You know it's amazing that people are still very close-minded and judgmental even in today's society. Its really sad that you both have such negative views. Especially with the progress the world has made as far discrimination is concerned. I feel sorry for you both. Your negative views are gonna bring up negative young men and women. Smh
TamsynMatchett TamsynMatchett 6 years
Wow - I don't even question this idea, it is apart of my every day interractions with my daughter. As for the below comments and other negative comments - you should be ashamed of yourself. You give your country and fellow citizens a terrible name. Your prejudice is disgusting.
barbaracallagy barbaracallagy 6 years
Shame on u april+amy! I feel sorry for you+your families. such negative views will come back at you. Carefull on judging people. You may be judged.
TamsenBrowneReed TamsenBrowneReed 6 years
Thus far, two negative comments and one positive. Fascinating and not in a good way! Even within the supportive commentator's comments, there is condemnation of another's value system. Bottomline, it does all come down to values and belief systems. As a mother in a loving lesbian relationship with two amazing, well-adjusted children, my children were raised only in love and tolerance....and respect. Challenges? Of course! Prejudice because of the family we are? Not Much, if at all. We faced all the same issues of a nuclear family. What created this balance? Yes, tolerance. Yet far beyond that...respect. I never advocate anyone to celebrate or support my choices, but as a human being interacting in public environments, public workplaces and throughout respect for life and living takes 1st priority. Whatever your value and belief system no one is here to change what you believe, but governing laws, procedure, workplace regulations are here to protect all people race, color, gender, physical limitation, and sexual identity. If we raise our children without respect of the right for people to live, work and interact together, we undermine the morale code. Teach your children respect. When they are treated in return from someone of a different value system, they will come to their own conclusions of how they wish to live their life. Hopefully, with tolerance of differences and respect of one another.
AmyBroadway AmyBroadway 6 years
adam and eve not adam and steve . frigen homos
MandiJutrzonka MandiJutrzonka 6 years
If you raise your children from the start to be accepting this won't be an issue. They will already understand that we are all different! April shame on you! Being gay or lesbian is not a choice! Get to know someone who is and you will see they are person just like you!
AprilBeck12865 AprilBeck12865 6 years
I will not support this concept of accepting same-sex relationships. I will not be teaching my daughter this.
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