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The Family Project: Handling question

Q. My five-year-old daughter’s new best friend comes from a family with same-sex parents. I am stuck on how to begin to answer questions she may have about this. Can you help me with some pointers on how to handle the discussion?

The first reaction from the panel was that there is an assumption that the daughter is going to have questions about her friend’s parents.

“There probably will be a conversation about this at some point,” observed panelist Mike Daniels. “If the parents want to be absolutely prepared for any future conversations, it is very important that they first are aware of what their value systems are, and what biases they may have about same-sex marriage. We all have biases. We don’t always act on them, but they are there.”

Panelist Chad Stefanyak said, “When children have questions, we must answer them as factually as possible. But less is more. The less you say the better.”

Here are three examples the panelists gave for answering the daughter’s questions without getting into the trap of saying more than the child really is asking about, or is really interested in knowing:

The daughter says her friend has two mothers or two fathers. The first response could simply be, “Yes, she does.” That validates the daughter’s statement without being judgmental. If the daughter continues to discuss the matter, try asking her how she feels about it. You can also say that there are many different kinds of families, “Some like ours, some like your friend’s, and others with only one parent.”

In another scenario where the daughter asks a question that is difficult to answer, the parent’s response could be, “That’s an interesting question.” Depending on the nature of the question, the parent could continue by asking the daughter, “What do you think?”

A third option might be to respond to the daughter’s question or comment by saying, “That’s interesting. Let me think about it.”

Panelist Pam Wallace said that parents often think they have to solve all the issues and cover all the bases when children ask questions. Saying too much can just cause confusion and generate more questions, Wallace said.

This week’s team of parenting experts are: Pam Wallace, Program Coordinator, Project Child, a program of Valley Youth House; Denise Continenza, Extension Educator, Food, Families and Health, Penn State Extension; Mike Daniels, LCSW, Psychotherapist, CTS, and Chad Stefanyak, School Counselor.

Have a question? Email: projectchild@projectchildlv.org.

The Family Project is a collaboration of the Lehigh Valley Press Focus section and Valley Youth House’s Project Child.