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Gay Parents: How Your Child Relates at School

QUESTION: I am a lesbian and live with my partner. Our five-year-old is starting school soon and both of us really want to be a big part of her education. However, we don't want to hurt her or give her any reason to be upset because her parents are of the same sex. Should only one of us be involved?

ANSWER: Your decision of how you want to handle this is a family affair to be decided by you and your partner. Your own personal histories, philosophies and knowledge of your community and your daughter, may be factors to weigh and consider. However, in the end, always keep in mind that your daughter should be proud of her origins and her family.

Although she may face some adversity, I believe that it is in your daughter's best interests to accept herself and allow others to accept her for who she is and where she comes from.

Ignorance breeds intolerance and exposure nurtures education. As with interracial children, or other families that may lie outside the norm in our society, prejudice is best addressed by exposure to those whom we might feel are different, and therefore to be feared. Hiding the facts may increase negative repercussions.

Consider the possibility that leaving a false impression, which later will need to be corrected, could reduce stress in the short-term, but damage your daughter's self-esteem in the long run. It will be assumed that she comes from a heterosexual family. When it becomes clear that she has two moms, instead of a dad and mom, it may be more difficult for your daughter over time. She may also pick up the message that you are hiding your situation from others, therefore leaving her with an unnamed shame.

Holding back from being involved in her education because of your family's uniqueness may make her family situation more of an issue, rather than less of one. In general, it would be my opinion that you and your partner should simply be the involved parents that you want to be in your daughter's life. Do not make an issue of your sexuality, but do not hide it. Simply be the best parents you can be, and support her educationally and socially as these issues arise.

Consider the potential for increased stress that not being yourselves can create in your family. Proceeding naturally, in line with your own family goals, in raising your daughter is most likely to be the best course of action. She will learn that families come in all shapes, sizes and genders. Being herself will teach others to accept, instead of reject differences.

Why not start off like this from the beginning? The more your daughter is comfortable with herself, the greater the likelihood that others will enjoy the treasures and gifts she has to offer, rather than become preoccupied with any differences. This approach will also build an inner strength needed to handle adversity she will likely face later in adolescence.

Keep in mind that acceptance of herself is her most powerful resource against prejudice now, and in the future. Omissions of truth lead to distortion, rather than clarity. Genuine self-acceptance is based on truth and authentic identity, rather than identity confusion.

Gayle Peterson, MSSW, LCSW, PhD is a family therapist specializing in prenatal and family development. She trains professionals in her prenatal counseling model and is the author of An Easier Childbirth, Birthing Normally and her latest book, Making Healthy Families. Her articles on family relationships appear in professional journals and she is an oft-quoted expert in popular magazines such as Woman's Day, Mothering and Parenting. . She also serves on the advisory board for Fit Pregnancy Magazine.

Dr. Gayle Peterson has written family columns for ParentsPlace.com, igrandparents.com, the Bay Area's Parents Press newspaper and the Sierra Foothill's Family Post. She has also hosted a live radio show, "Ask Dr. Gayle" on www.ivillage.com, answering questions on family relationships and parenting. Dr. Peterson has appeared on numerous radio and television interviews including Canadian broadcast as a family and communications expert in the twelve part documentary "Baby's Best Chance". She is former clinical director of the Holistic Health Program at John F. Kennedy University in Northern California and adjunct faculty at the California Institute for Integral Studies in San Francisco. A national public speaker on women's issues and family development, Gayle Peterson practices psychotherapy in Oakland, California and Nevada City, California. She also offers an online certification training program in Prenatal Counseling and Birth Hypnosis. Gayle and is a wife, mother of two adult children and a proud grandmother of three lively boys and one sparkling granddaughter..

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