LGBTIQ+ families: why community support and belonging is important
When you feel supported as a parent and feel that you belong in your neighbourhood and community, your children do better socially, emotionally and behaviourally. That’s because you can navigate the challenges of raising children better than if you feel isolated and alone.
It works the other way too. If you feel that you don’t belong, you can feel socially isolated. This can be bad for your mental health, which can affect your ability to be the parent you want to be.
Parents in LGBTIQ+ families are like all parents. They need support and a sense of belonging to help their children thrive.
Children do well when they have parenting that’s nurturing, warm, sensitive, responsive and flexible. These are the things that matter to all children.
Parents in LGBTIQ+ families: discrimination
Parents in LGBTIQ+ families can experience discrimination. This might leave them feeling isolated at times and like they don’t belong.
Discrimination can be obvious, like violence or threats. It can also be subtle, like teachers not letting children talk about their family experiences, or service providers asking inappropriate questions about family formation or parenting arrangements.
Discrimination can also come from policies, procedures or services that unfairly exclude LGBTIQ+ families and their children.
Supporting and including LGBTIQ+ families: what you can do
Social and emotional support from friends and family is one of the most important ways that all parents and families get a sense of belonging. Parents and families also feel that they belong when they’re part of a supportive neighbourhood network or can get involved in the community – for example, by volunteering.
You can support LGBTIQ+ families in your neighbourhood by including them in these and other ways, and by speaking up if someone expresses views that discriminate against diverse families. Here are some ideas.
Being aware of what you say
If you use language that’s respectful of difference, inclusive and non-judgmental, it can help LGBTIQ+ families feel welcome.
You can help by being aware of what you say. For example:
- Ask if you’re not sure what language to use. For example, ‘My name is Caz, and I use the pronouns she/her. What names and pronouns do your family members use?’
- Use neutral language, if you’re not sure what to say. For example, you might ask a child, ‘Where are your parents?’ rather than ‘Where are your mum and dad?’
- Be sensitive when asking other parents about their families, and don’t ask unnecessary questions – for example, questions like ‘How was Maddy conceived?’
Challenging unhelpful attitudes
If you challenge unhelpful assumptions and attitudes, it can help LGBTIQ+ families feel supported and included.
- Speak up if someone expresses views that are homophobic or transphobic, that stereotype people, or that discriminate against diverse families in other ways. You could say, ‘I feel those comments are unfair’ or ‘I’m sorry but I don’t agree with that’.
- Challenge people if they suggest that one type of family is better, or more ‘normal’ than another. You could say, ‘Actually, it’s what parents do that really matters to children’.
- Give services, community groups or schools feedback if you see ways they could be more inclusive. For example, you could suggest your child’s preschool changes a form so that it says ‘parent’ instead of mother or father, or you could suggest books for the school library that are inclusive of diverse families.
Talking with your child
Talking with your child about LGBTIQ+ families can help your child be aware of diverse families.
- Talk about different kinds of families and parents. You could say, ‘Families come in all shapes and sizes. Some children have a mum and a dad, some just have a mum or a dad, and some have 2 mums or 2 dads’.
- Ask your child whether they have any friends with LGBTIQ+ families.
You can help LGBTIQ+ families feel like they belong by letting them know what’s available in your area. For example:
- Tell parents about things like local playgroups, family events, babysitting clubs and so on.
- Share information about local parenting and family support organisations and child health and wellbeing centres and organisations.