This section is about and for children who are living in a polyamorous lifestyle. Whether they are living directly with multiple parents in their home, or they have relatives living our lifestyle; this is where we will try to help both adults and children alike understand and cope (if necessary) with some of lifes issues.
Some poly families are structured so that one parent can be home to care for the children while two or more other adults work outside the home and earn an income, thus providing a better standard of living for all concerned. More adult caretakers means more people available for child care, help with homework, and daily issues such as transportation to extracurricular activities. Children thrive on love. The more adults they have to love them who are part of the family, the happier and more well-adjusted they are. There is no evidence that growing up in a poly family is detrimental to the physical, psychological or moral well being of children. If parents are happy in their intimate relationships, it helps the family. Happy families are good for children.
Issues currently covered in this section are:
Issues we are currently working on (and could use your input on) are:
- Explaining Poly to Your Kids
- Poly Social Settings (involving kids)
- Legal (Parenting) Issues
This section will be a work in progress. Our very own Momma Chel, author of our original column Growing Up Poly, is the managing editor and all comments or suggestions should be directed to her via the Letters to The Editor section of our user forums, or via her email address as listed below.
For more information regarding polyamory and parenting, feel free to read the following other resources we offer:
Helping Your Kids Cope With Being "Different"
Contributed by Momma Chel
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!
Poly Parental Interactions
Contributed by Momma Chel
Having five children in our home, it’s safe to state that I spend a considerable amount of time trying to figure out what type of interaction each child needs. I worry over not spending enough time with the oldest because I know that he is mature enough to handle some things on his own, but also know that it’s up to the adults to keep communication flowing in the teen-age years. I worry that the youngest child is receiving too much attention/interaction with the adults because she’s the baby of all of us as a family. She is so much a part of each of us in the house and that brings her into many types of interactions with the adults and also the kids. I worry over the middle children feeling that mundane feeling of being “stuck” in the middle when they have so much to offer. Does the oldest girl feel too much pressure to “parent” the younger children?
As a polyfamily, I also fret over my feelings that I’m not giving the right type of interaction to my biological or non-biological children. Do the children feel that I approach them differently? Do the children need more time with just their biological parent? What are the long-term effects on children growing up in a polyfamily? Does it really matter to me and the children about what psychologists choose to say or conduct studies on?
These worries and issues are all fine and dandy to ponder, but is it getting me anywhere in raising my children and balancing my life? My suggestion to myself when I start feeling overwhelmed with issues is to step back, breathe, and then start simple.
1). What do I know? ----- I start thinking about real, true things I know about each child. These things give me warm fuzzies (most of the time!). It may also give me brainstorming ideas on what each child may need from me or from all of us. For instance, I know that the 10 y.o. boy goes through a rough time with change. I also know that last year it took at least six weeks after a change to settle him back into a routine where he was comfortable and thus, more well-behaved. This year it took only a two-week period to settle him into the school year. ***Warm Fuzzy*** We knew it was difficult for him and we worked together to address this.
2). What Can I Do? ----- Again, I brainstorm through the ages and stages and find things that aren’t giving me those warm fuzzies. Example: We have a large home for the eight of us, but while we’re remodeling, there is only one full bathroom and a ½ bath in the basement. This causes issues with Adult toiletries versus Kids toiletries. Now this may seem trivial, but with eight of us, we spend A LOT of time in the bathroom. Anything we can do to lessen the chaos in the bathroom really is more time and energy that can be spent positively interacting with our kids. We talked it over and specified shelves so the kids know what is acceptable to use and what isn’t. Believe me, it’s helped!
3). Remember to Breathe and Smile, Breathe and Smile! ----- Some things don’t work well. It doesn’t matter the preparation we’ve put into it ; it’s called life, and life with kids. So when the kids are fighting again for the umpteenth time, and the milk gets spilled at supper for the 5th time, I repeat to myself, breathe and smile, breathe and smile! It’s not the end of the world and it’s not worth it to get all bent out of shape because we have the rest of the evening to attend to or the rest of the day depending on the timing!
More along the lines of where I started from, I realize that small, everyday interactions can be among the most rewarding and possibly momentous for our kids. When I’m cleaning house, the children help. They get so excited about some jobs that they call to me “Look at the bathroom; it’s sparkling!” Of course, they get praised and we get help, making this a win-win combination! When we’re in the car and we’re having a spelling bee, the youngest is learning to wait patiently, the 8 y.o. and 10 y.o. get to listen to the 11 y.o. do “hard” words and accordingly want to aspire to this. When a teacher sends a note home about negative behavior, there are three parents and possibly four siblings that will inevitably hear of it and give their advice to you on what to do differently. When the oldest girl is struggling with becoming a young woman, she gets opinions and encouragement from two parental figures that have been there. When we all watch a movie together and especially when it’s one we’ve already seen, we tend to look at a person in our family at a specific part of the film to watch their reaction as we remembered it being silly or funny from the first time. There are a million everyday, small interactions that I can’t even begin to list that make us a family and bring us closer. I’ve found that if I trust my instincts, the kids will tell us what they need from us if not through words, definitely through actions. We choose to literally stop worrying, and to start living from moment to moment and through each of the ages and stages while trying to better ourselves and our family through communication and the best way we know how --- trial and error!
For more information regarding Poly Parental Interactions, feel free to read the following other resources we offer:
"Outing" Yourself As Poly to Your Kids
Contributed by Chias
The single most important thing to remember in this situation is this: If there's something to say, say it. We continuously repeat our own personal mantra over and over in our heads. You know the one I'm talking about. It goes something like communicate, communicate, communicate. When dealing with the adults in our extended family, we continuosly preach communication, but when it comes to our children we tend to be tight lipped and hope they won't notice. Big mistake. Children are growing increasingly intelligent as the generations progress, and now more than ever we need to be leading by example. If we want our children to be open and honest with us, we had better make sure that we return the favor. If you've invited one or more of your partners to join your family, and they're living under the same roof as your children then chances are that the kids have already begun to wonder. Someone once told me that the truth is usually much less evil than anything we can come up with in our head. This can hold true for children as well.
Don't make the mistake that many poly family's make when dealing with their children. Don't wait too long to tell them the truth. How long is too long? If you've got your partners living under the same roof, and you haven't been completely straight forward with your kids, you've waited too long. As I've stated, children are growing increasingly more intuitive as the generations pass and we should never underestimate their intelligence, or their imagination level.
One member of our forums related a story to us regarding coming out to his kids. In reflecting back, he and his family realized they had waited too long. When they finally did sit their family down and explain it to them, their daughter already had seen things that had set her mind in motion. Apparently, she had witnessed a kiss between her mother and the other male living in the house. This type of thing is bound to make any child start to imagine the worst. Is there a separation or divorce coming? Don't my parents love each other anymore? They eventually explained the entire situation to all of their kids, and everything worked out for the best. This might not always be the case.
Despite the steps you take to be discreet in your relationships, at some point in time one of the kids is bound to hear or see something that reveals the truth. Take the time to sit them down and explain the situation to them before this happens. No matter their reaction, you'll at least know that you were honest and open with them.