How to support rainbow families and their children in the kindergarten community
All families need support from educators within a kindergarten setting. To support rainbow-identifying families specifically, educators should:
Start early. Early childhood is a crucial time to instil in children a sense of pride in family and identity, and an appreciation of diversity. By teaching children the importance of treating others equally and celebrating different families and cultures, parents and educators can have a significant impact on how children’s attitudes mature and develop. You are important in nurturing acceptance, harmony and inclusion.
Be inclusive. Simple things like using inclusive language in messaging (think “parents and carers” instead of “mum and dad”) can go a long way in supporting rainbow families.
Be open. It’s important not to avoid or ignore tricky questions or comments. You can share some of your own experiences to help families engage with the issues. You can encourage empathy by asking, parents & carers and other educators to consider how they would feel as the subjects of this discussion.
Build respect. Encourage families to take action to challenge discrimination when they see it. Reinforce the themes of equality, inclusion and respect. Regardless of the debate taking place, all children have an equal right to play, learn, make friends and grow.
Be a role model. Children learn most from words and actions, so it’s important to lead by example.
Celebrate diversity. Support a “Family Wall” where children can share pictures of their family and where diversity is celebrated. Think about the language used and how to ensure representation of diverse families in any communication.
Call out homophobia and transphobia. If you hear people making offensive or disparaging comments about LGBTI+ people or their children, whether it comes from staff, parents or children on the playground. It can be difficult to call people out, but research shows that when we challenge disparaging comments, we support not only the person who was targeted, but the people around them (tolerance, 2019).
Support children who have experienced discrimination or prejudice. Listen to Raffa. Encourage him to talk about how he feels and be positive about his family and identity. Keep the communication lines open. If you feel that Raffa or a child from a rainbow family may need extra support at this time, chat to the family/ carers about how you can support each other.
Educate kindergarten communities. Start having conversations with colleagues, friends, families, and networks about the diversity of families you know and why diversity and acceptance are important (Tomlins, 2018) (tolerance, 2019).