My question is, are we being sensitive to the children in our classroom with non-traditional family circumstances. My classroom is very diverse from a familial standpoint. Several of the children in my class live with single-parents because of varying circumstances, one has two dads, two are adopted, and one lives with relatives from time to time because her mother is too ill to care for her. When we say "mom and dad" or "parents" do these children in these situations understand that we really mean guardians, or whoever is at home with them?
Even if they do understand, how does this affect them. I know I get thrown off when people ask about my parents or use the term "moms and dad" (though this one happens a lot less being a grown-up and all now). I know that they mean no harm, but it is amazing how a simple statement can throw you into your own thoughts. Do my students have the same response that I do. When we say "moms and dads" does a child who has not had contact with his or her dad or mom in years (or even ever) think about what they are missing? Does it upset them? Do we lose their attention?
Children at this age are very accepting of differing family situations. On occasion a child will mention something about his or her family situation---something you and I might only tell our closest friends-- and the other children may ask questions, but the questions are from curiosity, not from hate and it does not create a feeling of bitterness for them.
When they do talk, however, we know that it is on their minds. My question is do we alienate them, purely on accident? Should we even take that chance? I know when we talk to children individually, we speak in a way that is mindful of their own unique family. Why do we revert back to the traditional family structure when we are talking with them in groups? Is it a majority rules type of situation? Does it have to be that way?
Clearly, I have been thinking about this a lot. I think that maybe a better alternative is to substitute "families" whenever possible, or even throw in a qualifier such as "moms, dads, or whoever is at home".
Will a simple change make any difference? I am not sure, but I do not think it can hurt.