The New Norm – Let’s Not Skate Around It.
For at least a decade we have heard about the ‘breakdown’ of the family. Politicians, religious leaders, educators have lamented the loss of the ‘normal ‘ family grouping. Allegedly 50% of marriages end in divorce; single parenting is on the rise as is international and domestic (private) adoption. Non traditional families have become part of the new normal, single parents, same sex couples parenting, blended families, mixed race or bi-racial families – the new norm. Some of us have become comfortable with this sooner than others, some institutions have embraced the ‘new norm’ with greater ease. Other’s not so much. One place where the new norm absolutely should be embraced, accepted and understood is the school setting. Regrettably this is not always the case; Every time I see a school communication addressed to Mr. and Mrs. or ‘the Mother and Father’ I wonder what century school leaders are living in. When a child whose race is different from their parents is questioned about the identity of their parents it’s at the very least insensitive. I have many friends, neighbors, colleagues and family who live ‘the new normal’ and yet experience this kind of insensitivity every day. As adults we struggle to explain to our children and students what they should say in difficult situations – with my own kids we role play (yes the drama geek in me comes out) how to handle questions about family.
In my research I found that while many schools want to be diverse then do not know how to be inclusive. Being inclusive is not easy but we should start with the obvious. It means we consider the way we address letters and all forms of documentation. As parents we teach our children that ‘everyone is different’ and we check our own biases at the door. If your son or daughter’s school is not inclusive , please let them know, I have always found educators to be really open to these conversations. Often it is ignorance, inexperience or ambivalence = it is rarely intentional.