How to celebrate in a way that includes all LGBTQ families
Families today don’t all look the same, like they did in 1950s TV shows—and that’s a good thing. More children than ever are being raised by single parents, adoptive parents, same-sex parents, or in blended families. They all deserve respect and support. Some, like LGBTQ families, might feel excluded on Mother’s Day. Here’s how you can help them feel seen and supported if they want to be included.
Understand how children in LGBTQ families might feel
Gender-specific events—like father-daughter dances at school or a holiday like Mother’s Day—can feel different to different families. This can be especially hard for teens and younger children, who don’t always like to feel different. If there is a Mother’s Day activity at school, for example, kids being raised by two dads might feel like they don’t belong. This is especially true if they aren’t out to friends or teachers about their family structure. Some may use Mother’s Day as an opportunity to speak up about what their family looks like—but others might keep quiet to blend in with the crowd. Amanda Hopping-Winn, chief program officer at the Family Equality Council, recommends that we not assume every family has a mother and a father, period.
Acknowledge how LGBTQ families celebrate—or don’t
LGBTQ couples may choose to celebrate one, both, or neither parent on Mother’s Day. There is no one-size-fits-all approach. Transgender parents may not celebrate according to traditional gender norms. If you have an LGBTQ family in your life and you’re unsure about wishing them a happy Mother’s Day, ask if and how they celebrate instead of making assumptions. According to Hopping-Winn, “LGBTQ parents tend to have some tradition around the holidays, whether we honor one parent on Mother’s Day or a surrogate, birth parent, or donor. Like many other situations, we have to be intentional about how we celebrate.”
It’s also worth remembering that it often takes LGBTQ families longer to have children than a typical heterosexual couple. As Hopping-Winn says, “Whether it be via surrogacy, adoption, foster care, or assisted reproductive technology, it generally takes longer to form our families. Mother’s Day can be a challenging time for these families, as it can be for anyone struggling to become parents. It reminds us of the family we so desperately desire but have not yet achieved.”
How you can be an ally to the LGBTQ families in your life and your school community
As Hopping-Winn states, “There is sometimes a sense of burden having to always explain ourselves, our families, and our needs. These holidays tend to be platforms for visibility and speaking out. Be proud of your family and talk about them. The more we hear about different kinds of families, the more inclusive we’ll become.” But building a broader definition of what it means to be a family shouldn’t be the responsibility of LGBTQ families alone. We can all help. Choose toys and books with diverse characters. Talk to your children about all types of families. Teach them to respect one another’s differences, and be a good role model, too. If a child asks if a family can have two moms, say yes. Remind them that families come in different combinations, but what matters is that the kids are cared for and loved.
What ALL families can do to make Mother’s Day more inclusive
Friends and family can be supportive of an LGBTQ family by honoring how they choose to spend the holiday. They can put an emphasis on all of the loving relationships a child has instead of a specific relationship they may not have. Any parent can talk to schools about planned Mother’s Day or gendered activities—not only LGBTQ parents. Another way to include all families is to ask store managers for gender-neutral or otherwise inclusive holiday cards. If you see some at your card store, let them know you appreciate it.
What schools can do make Mother’s Day more inclusive
Some schools have decided to have a gender-neutral Parents’ Day or Family Day instead of Mother’s and Father’s Days. If you work at a school that chooses to celebrate Mother’s Day, do what you can to be inclusive of all kinds of families:1
1. Use their words when talking about their families. Ask students in LGBTQ families for direction and follow their lead.
2. Talk about all kinds of families. Not every family has one mom and one dad. Make it safe to celebrate any supportive relationship a child has. Provide books in the classroom that show different kinds of families.
3. Avoid gender stereotypes in younger children’s crafts. Steer away from cards with flowers for mom or ties for dad, for example.
4. Talk to older students about gender stereotypes. Ask about the qualities that mothers and fathers have or the roles they often play and why these have been culturally assigned to each gender. Ask if either a mom or dad could have these qualities or fill these roles.
5. Don’t let a child be alone. If your school has a Mother’s Day event where mothers come in, make sure no child is alone while others have a family member present. Make sure someone—maybe a teacher or administrator—can be there to support that child.
6. Remember that some children have lost a parent or don’t have a relationship with them. Mother’s Day could be a painful reminder of this loss and bring up a lot of difficult emotions if you’re planning a craft or activity. Reach out to their parent or guardian and ask what makes the most sense for that child. They could make the craft for another adult they are close to.