Momma Chel is a contributing writer to this community, as well as a mother raising several children in her expanded family. These are some of her thoughts regarding the subject.

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Beat of a Different Drum

Explaining to kids about being “different”….

Well, first off, what is different? To me, different means uniqueness to a particular person or thing. When approaching my children, I applaud each of their unique characteristics. Yes, the eight y.o. girl loves music and to sing and hum and put whatever she can to music and also to do it over and over again. The 11 y.o. girl cannot understand why she must do this b/c it drives her nuts and it’s so “uncool”. Well, the 11 y.o. is just as unique with dancing and cartwheeling at every step and trying to be goofy without being the dreaded “uncool kid”. They’re “different”.

How do I get my 11 y.o. to recognize that it’s okay to be “different”? This is a harder task. The younger kids seem to toy with this idea much easier than the older ones. They are just more accepting in their elementary ages vs. middle school years.

First off, I took time with the child that was having a hard time accepting something. I listened to her talk about friends, about those who weren’t friends and anything else she cared to discuss. I asked questions about why or why not she liked someone or disliked them. I asked questions on her level, which I feel is very important. I tried not to start bashing her world in that she had created too. I almost always go for their compassionate side. I tried to show her that the world is a better place when you allow yourself to be compassionate to everyone, even people you dislike. I asked her to think about a scenario with me telling her that dancing around the house is so stupid. I ask her to think of how it would make her feel because it was something she absolutely loved to do, and then, I left it alone. Trying too much to be on their level or too much lecturing will fall on deaf ears.

I watched her behavior and words over the next few days and noticed a significant reduction in bashing the 8 y.o. for just being herself. She would ask her to stop singing for a little bit or to please sing elsewhere, but she didn’t tell her over and over that she was uncool or stupid for doing this.

Now we can discuss trying to help kids cope with being “different” as in a different lifestyle such as a polyfamily. Kids are smart; so much smarter than I even give them credit for. They tend to figure things out in their mind even when advice or knowledge was given to them on a certain subject; they manage to piece it together and make it understandable to them. In my opinion, that’s a neat trick.

In our personal situation, all the children were given limited information regarding a chosen lifestyle per se, but knowledge that the three adults in their lives loved each other very much, loved each child very much and that we wanted to live together and have a life together. Initially, it was all cool, because the youngest three got to be taken care of and to look up to the oldest two, and the oldest two had more kids in the house to play with. Of course, this wore off and the kids felt their personal space and belongings were being threatened by not having many boundaries in the small house where we rented. After we resolved this conflict altogether, the kids started realizing that there were three adults in the house that they had to answer to. **Big Shock** Then came the onslaught of trying to “befriend” a particular adult and get what they wanted from that one adult. Another big shock when they found that it didn’t work and that we all communicated about wants or needs of any given child. After this was established, we sort of fell into our patterns of school, practices, just normal life in general. The kids all started realizing that there were three of us to care for them when they were sick, three of us to get scolded from, hugs from, tickles from; three of us to feed the small army of mouths and three of us to trust completely in. After trust was established, they asked more questions. Why do we have to live together? Why can’t I have my own room? Why do I have to share my time on the computer because it’s mine, not theirs? Why do you guys love each other? Why do I have to listen to them (non-biological parent)? We answered them as truthfully as we could and as much as was appropriate for their age.


I found that it was more unnerving for me to think about how to approach a new kid and their parents than it ever was for the kids. The kids were comfortable in telling their school mates that they lived with mom, momma Chel, Chad, five kids, one rat, one dog and a partridge in a pear tree. If the mates asked why, our kids might say, I don’t know, because we want to, because so and so help take care of us, because we’re family now, etc. They were inventive sometimes! The other children seemed very accepting too. We’ve made some really good friends with some of the boys and girls parents. None of them have questioned our household and they all seem to respect us and feel comfortable with us having their children over. This, more than anything, has helped our kids to cope with being different. Just the normalcy that comes with our everyday lives and seeing the adults in their lives interact and love and feel comfortable.

The 14 y.o. boy was asked the other day how he explained all of us to his friends, and he answered, “I just tell them that we all live together and we’re kind of like family.” Now, believe me, this has taken time and patience, but the end result is a well-adjusted, very normal, 14 y.o. male, which takes a lot of energy most days!


Somedays, I think I’m going crazy with the kids and trying to reach them and help them to applaud each other’s differences instead of bash each other. Other days, I see their compassionate side come through and know that it’s all worth it!

Momma Chel; September 19, 2005

Momma Chel is a contributing writer as well as a member of this online Community. She can be contacted here or through our message board Forums.


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