Response for discussion 1
Assumptions people might make about different family configurations:
Non-traditional family configurations are judged for being different than traditional families. These families are stigmatized as the alcoholic, multiracial, lesbian, or gay families, among other configurations (Breshears, 2011). This disapproval negatively affects the family, and especially the development of the children.
One such family configuration that assumptions are made is a family with homosexual parents. These families face the challenge that they are not a true family structure (Breshears, 2011). In fact, they may receive hostility or be stigmatized. Because of the prejudice (Fitzgerald, 2010), the children need to be taught by the parents about homophobia (Breshears, 2011). Plus, their family identity is scrutinized more than a traditional family. This family structure is likewise challenged not only directly, but indirectly in the school. Lesbian and gay families may not represented in schools in books or on posters. Other children may criticize the child of homosexual parents. There may also be indirect challenges of family identity on school assignments (Breshears, 2011). In response, some families may encourage their children to hide the family identity to protect them from discrimination (Breshears, 2011).
Impacts assumptions have on the development of children:
If a child’s family is injured or hurt, so is his/her own identity because family is an extension of the child’s self-identity (Derman–Sparks & Olson Edwards, 2010). Thus, the child may hold the burden for his/her parents and feel a need to protect them. This causes extra stress on the child (Fitzgerald, 2010). They may, as well, take on the anxiety of their parents. Additionally, Fitzgerald (2010) discussed that children of homosexual families feel pressure to be perfect and struggle to trust others due to constant harassment from peers.
How do these assumptions impact my work with children:
I believe that it is best practice to respect all family structures because structure does not identify how the family functions (Derman–Sparks & Olson Edwards, 2010). Ultimately, in my job as a school psychologist, I need to keep an open mind and focus on how the function of a child’s family impacts his/her cognitive, social, and emotional development. Besides helping the individual by listening, I can provide them with resources and suggest support groups to help them not feel alone or isolated. For example, the Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) has been shown to improve school climate by educating the school community about sexual minority issues while increasing social support for LGBTQ students and those students with same sex parents (Heck, 2014). Joining a GSA may help a student from a homosexual family.
Breshears, D. (2011). Understanding communication between lesbian parents and their children regarding outsider discourse about family identity. Journal of GLBT Family Studies, 7, 264–284.
Derman-Sparks, L., & Olsen Edwards, J. (2010). Anti-bias education for young children and ourselves. Washington, DC: National Association for the Education of Young Children.
Fitzgerald, T. J. (2010). Queerspawn and their families: Psychotherapy with LGBTQ families. Journal of Gay & Lesbian Mental Health, 14(2), 155–162.
Heck, N.C., Lindquist, L.M., Machek, G.R., & Cochran, B.N. (2014). School belonging, school victimization, and the mental health of LGBT young adults: Implications for school psychologist. School Psychology Forum: Research in Practice, 8(1), 28-37.
Explain what assumptions people might make about different family configurations.
· Children with same sex parents often experience exposure to opinions from other students and possibly the school system. The system often assumes that students come from heterosexual family structures. Children that come from same sex households feel as if their family structure is not recognized or supported in the school system (Breshears, 2011). Another assumption would be, in addition to having to initially come out as gay or lesbian, gay and lesbian parents who decide to have children have what is described as a second coming out because they again have to build the courage to tell family members that they want to have children. This task can be difficult and scary to gay and lesbian parents for the same fear they faced during their initial coming out…not being accepted. The fear is possibly worse this time around because it would be the fear of their children not being accepted. Family members feel as if the child would be gay or lesbian too due to their own familial homophobia (Breshears, 2011).
Explain the impact those assumptions might have on the development of children and adolescents.
· There is added pressure on the family, especially the children, to be or appear to be perfect due to society feeling and making the assumption that LGBTQ parents do not make good parents. There is a lot of pressure on the child to appear “straight”, in order to not make their parents appear as “recruiters” (Fitzgerald, 2010). Even though homophobia can be subtle, it can have lasting effects on children. Children also tend to take on the parental role at school when they hear an inappropriate comment about gays or lesbians. They feel the need to protect their parents. In some instances, this can be healthy and empowering to a child, knowing they are standing up for their parents and their family. For others, it may bring on a new burden (Fitzgerald, 2010). The child may feel embarrassed and may view his family in a negative way.
Explain what impact those assumptions might have on your work with children and adolescents
· This can be a very sensitive subject for most children. Especially those that get made fun of or feel embarrassed by the choices their parents have made. Working with these children and adolescents, my job would be to build confidence in the person they are and want to become. Teach them that their circumstance does not have to define them. It is extremely important for children with gay or lesbian parents to have a sense of pride about themselves and their parents. I would encourage them to build a lasting relationship with their parents and attempt to build one, with their family who may not agree with the decision their parents have made.
Breshears, D. (2011). Understanding communication between lesbian parents and their children regarding outsider discourse about family identity.
Fitzgerald, T. J. (2010). Queerspawn and their families: Psychotherapy with LGBTQ families.