Gay and Lesbian Parents: How to Get Involved in Your Child’s Life
As a gay or lesbian parent, you’ve probably heard it all before. From the American Psychological Association to drug prevention organizations, experts advise parents to get involved in their kids’ lives: The closer they are to their parents, the less likely children are to develop behavioral problems or engage in high-risk behavior such as drinking and doing drugs, and the more likely they are to do well in school.
For GLBT families, however, getting involved is even more important. As a parent, you are your child’s biggest advocate: Your involvement encourages tolerance in the community and its schools, increases the quality of your child’s education, and ensures the fullness of your child’s experiences.
Volunteer at School
Your child spends almost as much time at school as the average adult spends at a full-time job. Therefore, in order to be more involved in your child’s life, it makes sense to go where they spend the majority of their time.
Volunteering at your child’s school or in related organizations has several advantages. First of all, students whose parents play a major role in their education tend to be more successful in school. Also, maintaining a strong presence at the school and in the community – whether as a member of the PTA, or a frequent volunteer at the school – will put you in a position to advocate for greater tolerance and diversity in school programs and curriculum.
The Power of the PTA
“The National PTA is the largest volunteer child advocacy organization in the United States,” notes the Family Equality Council (formerly Family Pride), a GLBT family rights organization. Because of the size and strength of the Parent Teacher Association, actively participating in your local chapter can have a significant impact on the quality of your child’s (and others’) schooling.
There are a number of ways you can get involved with your local PTA:
- Attend meetings
- Build relationships with other members
- Raise issues that concern or interest you
- Work together with other parents to achieve shared goals
By getting involved and speaking up, you establish your presence as a prominent parent in your child’s school, and make sure your voice is heard. This allows you to play a more active role in your child’s education, from basic academics to school policies that impact gay and lesbian families.
Other Ways to Volunteer
There are other ways to get involved in your child’s education, all of which help you to maintain a strong presence in your child’s life, as well as at his or her school.
Other volunteer opportunities to consider include:
- Volunteering as a classroom assistant
- Helping to monitor children in the lunch room or at recess
- Acting as a chaperone on field trips
- Participating in school events
- Joining – or initiating – parent groups
Get Involved with Extracurricular Activities
Most children’s interests extend beyond school hours. Many parents groan at the constant shuttling of children to after-school activities. However, another way to see this is as just another way to get involved in your child’s life.
Here are a few ways you can get involved with your child’s extracurricular activities:
Join the Club
If your child is involved with an after-school club, see if there is a way you can help out. For example, you might be able to help make props or costumes for the drama club, or help supervise new experiments in the science club. Also, if you have a related area of expertise, your child would no doubt be proud to show you off to his or her friends.
Coach the Team
Does your child play a sport – or perhaps more than one? Is throwing (or kicking) the ball around a family ritual? If so, you might consider volunteering to coach your child’s team. The activity will provide plenty of healthy exercise for both you and your child. Also, community sports provide an opportunity for breaking down stereotypes your child’s friends and their families might hold about gays and lesbians.
Lead the Scouts
Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and similar groups are popular extracurricular activities for children. In fact, you may have fond memories of being a Scout yourself, once. Reviving your membership, this time in a leadership role, can be rewarding for both you and your child.
Get Involved at Church
For many families, church is the center of their social lives. Being very involved in their church can create a strong sense of unity and connection for children. On the flip side, your church needs you as much as you need them, making for plenty of interesting volunteer opportunities. Teach your child’s Sunday School classes, help plan and participate in church events and fund raisers, and get involved in community improvement programs. Your involvement can even help to improve community understanding and acceptance of gays and lesbians: Start or attend support groups for GLBT parents and their children, and help plan consciousness-raising efforts within the church and the community.
However, keep in mind that some of these organizations – such as the Boy Scouts – have policies excluding gays and lesbians from membership. If you run into such a situation, you and your child can look for a nondiscriminatory organization where you both can get involved. Also, this would be an excellent opportunity to use your presence in the school and community to promote more tolerant organizations!
The Perfect GLBT Parent: Interested and Available
There are plenty of opportunities for gay and lesbian parents to get involved in their children’s lives. Aside from volunteer opportunities in the Parent Teacher Association, at your child’s school, and in extracurricular activities, there are also many ways to get involved in your family’s day-to-day life.
For example, if your child favors home-based hobbies rather than traditional extracurricular activities, demonstrate your interest and find ways to get involved. Regularly plan family time and fun outings. Talk to your child about his or her day, homework, and other day-to-day topics. The most important thing is for your child to know that you are interested, involved, and available – whether that is as an active participant in their school and extracurricular activities, a willing companion at home, or a little of both.
Plus, these books:
- Integrated Curriculum and Developmentally Appropriate Practice: Birth to Age Eight, by Craig H. Hart, Diane C. Burts, Rosalind Charlesworth
- 25 Stupid Mistakes Parents Make, by Peter Jaksa
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