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As I have grown as an educator, I have started to see so many things in a new light. Mother’s Day and Father’s Day is something I went into teaching knowing it was sensitive. Having grown up with divorced parents and several step-parents, I knew it could be awkward for kids.
I remember only getting one packet to fill out and wondering who I should give it to. I also remember times when I didn’t get to see my parent on “their” holiday and the pain that caused.
But as I started teaching, I realized that even my “sensitivity” wasn’t enough. For so many students, their family structure looked different. I wanted to make sure that every experience in my room was safe and positive for my kids. So I started giving lots of options.
In my room, that meant that I never told kids who to write to and let them work on as many or as few as they wanted. Instead of handing out a “Mother’s Day” sheet to each student, I would make a version for Grandmas, Stepmoms, Aunts, and leave some blank. I would lay them out and let my students come and pick up whichever they would like. That way the pressure was off for both of us.
When I first started, if I knew a student had divorced parents I might call them aside and give them a second one for their step-parent. But looking back, that really made it a bigger deal and may have even embarrassed some of my sweet students. It also assumes I know what’s going on in each family, and that’s just not true. Offering choices for ALL students is much more respectful and safe.
Because Texas lets out in May or early June, we never really celebrated Father’s Day. But I started to offer these activities at the same time as Mother’s Day. Again, providing OPTIONS makes this holiday much more accessible to all students.
Reframing our language around these holidays is also hugely important. Instead of saying “Mother’s Day is a time to celebrate our moms,” try saying “Mother’s Day is a time to celebrate all the important women in our life. It might be your mom, your grandma or even someone at school.” For kids whos’ Moms have passed away or aren’t in their life this provides them the safety they need to participate in the activity.
Being thoughtful about the books we read-aloud can go along way in helping our students feel comfortable discussing their families and see themselves in the curriculum. I compiled a list of my favorite picture books about diverse families. I didn’t include any traditional mom and dad books because there are SO many out there and they are fairly easy to find. But books that actually look like the families in our community are harder to find and I wanted to make sure you had a comprehensive list.
If you’d like to purchase these books, you can find them in my Amazon store. I’m also including affiliate links below if you want to easily find them on Amazon, but I encourage you to look at local bookstores too! I also found many of them on Youtube if you’d like to send them out for distance learning. I linked all of those on this Pinterest board.
These are all excellent titles to include all year long. Remember, it’s super important to have books that show lots of different families without it always being ABOUT the family.
The activities I created are digital so they are great for home learning, but also for workstation time or for everyone to work on at the computer lab. They are sized to 8.5×11 so you can even print them.
I always, always, always recommend offering choice…especially when its a sensitive topic. For these activities, that means letting students do as many or as few as they’d like. They might choose to write to their mom but they may also want to write to their grandma and their soccer coach. Please do NOT give certain students different pages…let them choose. If you know a student lives with an aunt, you MUST include options with aunts but make them available for everyone. We want them to feel seen but never shamed or singled out.
I added some fun social media templates for them to create as well. It’s so fun to see what they think their family members would post and share! They can use photos from their own life, find photos or use clipart for the images and then write captions.
Here are a few other activities they can complete.
All of the above slides are obviously for male or female relatives and grown-ups. I also included some gender-neutral slides for them in case someone in their life doesn’t use traditional pronouns. Making these quick changes makes LGBTQA families and kids feel welcome and appreciated in our classrooms.
What other suggestions or questions do you have about covering families in the classroom in a sensitive way? Let me know!