You asked

What do I do when my child starts asking about families that aren't like ours?

The truth is, more children than you think these days come from non-traditional families. Many live with single parents, some with gay or lesbian parents, and others are adopted. Your family may even be non traditional. The truth is that most children at preschool age won’t see the differences – they’ll simply accept their family for what it is.

It’s only when your child starts to come into contact with other families, that are different to theirs, that they will start to notice the difference, and ask questions related to them.

Even if your family is not traditional, don’t be afraid of these questions. It’s your opportunity to show your child that even if not all families look the same, they’re all okay. As long as your child is loved, safe and secure, then your family is just fine as it is, whether it’s traditional or not.

When your child asks you questions, think about what you want to tell them. For instance, if your child came from a sperm or egg donor, or if your partner left for some reason, what should you tell your child? Decide what you want your child to know, and what you don’t, and then formulate a simple story.

Try using books, television shows, or trips to the park to talk about all the different families that are out there. Explain to your child that all families are normal – even if there are two daddies, only one parent, or just a grandmother.

Try not to give your child too long and complex an answer when he or she asks a question. Your child may ask where a friend’s daddy is, for instance, and you can explain that his daddy doesn’t live with them, but that he comes over to play.

Don’t harp on the topic too much either. Your child is probably satisfied with a simple answer at this point, so leave it at that. Often, your child will have already moved on to something else, and your explanations, and worry, are for nothing.

When your child does express an interest in something that’s not a part of your family – a daddy or lots of brothers or sisters – don’t take it personally. It’s not that your child is unhappy with your family. Take it positively, and if your child expresses a wish for something specific, like a daddy to play catch with, then suggest alternatives, like spending time with a male friend.

Don’t tell your child lies when he or she asks a direct question. This is often the case when a child asks about a difficult subject, like an absent parent or one who has mental illness or other problems. Rather answer simply and truthfully. Focus on the positive, by telling your child that you’re not sure where their other parent is, but that you know he or she is loved. The key is to keep any explanation simple – preschoolers cannot process much information at a time, and your long explanations will probably not make much sense to them anyway.

Lastly, make sure that you encourage your child to be accepting of all types of families. All families are made up of people who love their children, and there’s no right or wrong type.

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