Open Discussion Forum

Subject: Fathers' Day

1.  Fathers' Day

Posted 05-28-2017 11:48 PM
I have a new child starting in my class soon, and I need some suggestions for Fathers' Day. He has 2 moms and no dad that I know of-he was at our center as a baby, left, and then came back. I think he was a foster child and then adopted by his foster family. I don't know them that well, and I don't want to offend anyone. Would it be appropriate to be upfront and ask them how  they handle Fathers' Day, or should I just make his gift without referencing the father part? Thank you for your help!

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Catherine Roach
Milwaukee WI
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2.  RE: Fathers' Day

Posted 05-29-2017 12:39 PM
Hello! Thank you for wanting to be thoughtful and inclusive of all your families! As a lesbian and foster/adoptive parent, I would definitely want my child's teacher to be open about this and speak to me directly. Since the family is new to your center, you will want to have a discussion about what each mom should be called (ex. Mommy and Mama, Mommy Christine and Mommy Rachel, etc) and if there are other family members the child might discuss. In many cases, children who were in the foster system are able to maintain contact with some members of their first family. It is definitely appropriate to say, "I am so glad Felix is joining our classroom. So I am using the right language, what does he call each of his moms? I was planning to have the children make a little present for Fathers Day. What makes the most sense for your family? Should he make the present for you (his moms) or is there someone else in his life we should keep in mind for this present? I want to make sure I am supporting Felix and your family the best I can." I would imagine other children in the class might also have a family make up that would require you to adjust this activity a bit (single moms, grandparent-headed families, etc).  Also, it would be nice to make sure diverse families are represented in your children's books and in the images around the classroom (family pictures, etc) to make sure this child feels represented. Many GLBT families face discrimination in schools and we worry quite a bit about how welcoming teachers and other parents will be to our children, so again thank you for wanting to be supportive and inclusive of all your families.  Best of luck to you!

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Christine Creagh
Associate Professor
Early Childhood Development and Education
Columbus State Community College
Columbus, Ohio
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3.  RE: Fathers' Day

Posted 05-30-2017 11:15 AM
Some programs have decided to reject the idea of celebrating Mom's Day/Dad's day/Grandparents Day (was this started by the greeting card industry?) and instead celebrate families.  This allows for inclusion of all family members and tends to get away from gift giving in favor of spending quality time together by having a picnic, BBQ, potluck, dance or other activities.  In our consumer-driven society it might be a better message to teach children.

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Patricia Meritt
Fairbanks AK
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4.  RE: Fathers' Day

Posted 05-31-2017 06:50 AM
Thank you, Christine and Patricia! Christine, I appreciate your insight-it is very helpful. I want to do what's best for this little boy! Patricia, I wish we could get away from these types of holidays at the center environment. To me these are personal and should be celebrated within the family. As far as gifts go, I used to make elaborate gifts for parents only to be frustrated at the lack of appreciation and acknowledgement. Now I go for simple. Other teachers go way out for their gifts, which is fine for them, but not all children want to make them-I have some children who just do not like having their hands traced, getting messy, and so on, which leads to teachers being frustrated, so I wonder who the gift is really for (and from). I would like to get away from the emphasis on gifts. Again, thank you both for your advice.

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Catherine Roach
Milwaukee WI
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5.  RE: Fathers' Day

Posted 05-29-2017 04:00 PM
First, I think your idea of asking the family what they prefer is a great idea. It's important to build connections with families, and they'll know you value their thoughts and feelings on the matter.

Mother's Day/Father's Day is always a tricky one. I know many families expect centers & classrooms to do something as "gift" from their child...but families aren't that simple anymore. Honestly, we stopped doing anything in my classroom. My daughter, for example has two dads - a biological one that she sees once a week, and a stepdad (whom she calls Dad) and lives with during the week. She used to agonize over which one she'd give her created-at-school gift to. Many children do not have a single Mom and Dad at home. With divorce, blended families, incarcerated parents, LGBT families, there's a lot to take into consideration. I know that there are classrooms in which they know - without a doubt - that every child has a mom, for example, then I can see why they'd choose to do that. My personal opinion is to just leave the Mother's Day and Father's Day gifts up to the families themselves to celebrate, or not, in whatever way they see fit.

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Lydia M. Bowers
NAEYC Affiliate Advisory Council
Cincinnati, Ohio
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6.  RE: Fathers' Day

Posted 05-29-2017 04:17 PM
Thanks to Lydia for articulating my thoughts so clearly! I will also add one more caveat.

We should be careful when we assume that even children with fathers have relationships that would benefit from such an activity.  As we know, some children have extremely challenging situations involving their fathers, and requiring children make and give them a gift could feel disingenuous or worse.

Sometimes it can feel hard to exclude holidays from the classroom if they are important to us. But I think it's even more important to remember who is excluded when we educators include a holiday, and at what cost we have excluded them.

 Thanks to everyone for this thoughtful conversation!

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Chris Amirault
Affiliate Advisory Council
Mérida, Yucatán, México
camirault@naeyc.org
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7.  RE: Fathers' Day

Posted 05-29-2017 06:06 PM
I agree that you should approach the parents and ask them directly how they think this should be handled for their child.  There will be other times besides Father's Day when this issue could come up, such as reading stories or  playing in the dramatic play center, etc. When I was directing a Center a number of years ago a single mother took her son out of the Center for the week before Father's Day because she did not want him to be exposed to any discussions about fathers and start asking questions.  I imagine that there are articles that deal with this very topic in some of the journals.
I wish you well in discussing this with the family.

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Eileen Donahue Brittain
Baltimore MD
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8.  RE: Fathers' Day

Posted 05-29-2017 04:49 PM
I think it's fine to ask the family how they would like to address it, noting that this will come up every year.
Depending on how comfortable you are with them, discourage them from keeping the child out of school that day (if you are having a celebration day,) as often happens.
Of course, make sure the student is not excluded from any activity or asked to do something different from others.
Great question. Its a tricky thing for teachers to navigate every year. Just be honest and open.

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Dominic Tejeda
New Windsor NY
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9.  RE: Fathers' Day

Posted 05-30-2017 03:02 PM
I love this discussion.  People have made all kinds of good points.  Like some others in the group, I think it's useful to consider making your own celebrations that broadly celebrate the people who are important in each child's life.  Some programs may have parents who feel strongly about mother's or father's day however, in which case I think it's important to be willing to put in some extra work.
Many people have brought up excellent points about this.  I'll add just a few. One is to be sure that you address the question of gifts and wants/needs for celebrations like this with all of your families, not just the ones you think are "different" or know that you don't know about.   It's easy to make incorrect assumptions if you don't ask.  For instance teachers often assumed that  children with 3 moms, our children didn't have any need for a father's day present, when in fact our oldest had a close relationship with their sperm donor and wanted to make a father's day gift for him.  I know many other kids with families that are way more complicated that they appear on the surface- who wouldn't want the combination of mothers/fathers day presents that you might assume they would.
I'd also add that if you are going to do father's day and mother's day gifts it's essential that you have enough supplies and time that children can make multiple gifts.  Having to choose which mom or which dad to give the one present you came home with leaves children in the difficult situation of having to decide which person to leave out- not the lesson we want to be teaching when we send gifts home.  This is true not just for LGBT families, but also families with step parents, or grandparents or other relatives who serve in a parental role etc. etc.

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[Meg] [Thomas]
[Early childhood program manager]
[AMAZE]
[St Paul ] [MN]
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10.  RE: Fathers' Day

Posted 05-31-2017 06:35 AM
Thank you for your suggestions. I had not thought of it that way, but you are right. I haven't been asking all of the families because I was making assumptions-and I know that some of our families are non-traditional. I wish we could do away with these kinds of holidays and come up with something more inclusive, but unfortunately it's not up to me. Thank you again!

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Catherine Roach
Milwaukee WI
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11.  RE: Fathers' Day

Posted 06-05-2017 09:56 AM
Catherine,
I just want to say thank you to you for all of your careful thought about the families in your program.  It really does make a difference to families when teachers think about how to make the program include all of us.  And think what a powerful role model you are being for all of the children and families in your program.

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[Meg] [Thomas]
[Early childhood program manager]
[AMAZE]
[St Paul ] [MN]
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12.  RE: Fathers' Day

Posted 05-30-2017 03:57 PM
At our program we eliminated Mother's and Father's Day celebrations when we had a child who didn't have both. Instead we pick a day in between and call it Parent's Day. We have a breakfast for the parents and the kids give them a gift. It's a lovely. And this year it's this Thursday. All the best - Chris

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Christine Giguere
Lexington Playcare Center
Lexington MA
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13.  RE: Fathers' Day

Posted 06-02-2017 11:59 AM
Catherine,

Hats off to you for being sensitive. We certainly don't want any of our children feeling left out of any special celebrations. It's our job as educators to ensure that our traditions are honored and embraced.

The situation that you are currently faced with is not new. Through the years I've seen the pendulum swing in both directions. I've been involved in programs that didn't celebrate special holidays at all because they were fearful of offending someone. I've been involved in other programs at a time when there was not even the hint of an issue and the celebrations were carried out just as they had been for decades. In the first case, they were overly sensitive and in the second case, they were either clueless or didn't care.

There are several different reasons some children don't have a "traditional" father in their life. Having two Mommies is only one reason. If your culture celebrates Father's Day and there are children without fathers in your program, perhaps you could call the special celebration, "Fathers, and Special Friends Day". Then leave it up to the family to decide how they prefer to celebrate an occasion that applauds the importance of men in a child's life.

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Evie Hirschmann
Hatfield PA
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14.  RE: Fathers' Day

Posted 06-02-2017 12:14 PM
On the other hand, there are children with two fathers. If you are making gifts and don't want the children with two dads to feel different, you may encourage each of the children in your class to make two gifts. For the children with two dads, there is a gift for each. For the children with only one dad, they can give the other gift to someone special.

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Evie Hirschmann
Hatfield PA
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15.  RE: Fathers' Day

Posted 06-03-2017 09:38 AM
Whatever you decide, please remember there can be a lot of trauma around Dads who are missing due to death, divorce, abandonment or Moms who never named the father.  Be sensitive and prepared to react and discuss children's feelings.  Also true of Moms, of course, but statistically less common.  For me as a young child, with a Mom who died when I was 4, it was even more traumatic to have a step mother enter my family when I was 6.  So be prepared for complications with blended families too.  There are a lot more important aspects to Mother's Day and Father's Day than children making gifts.

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Patricia Meritt
Fairbanks AK
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16.  RE: Fathers' Day

Posted 06-04-2017 09:33 PM
I know what you mean. I try to be sensitive to the children's feelings. I appreciate all of the help I have gotten on this subject-definitely food for thought!


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Catherine Roach
Milwaukee WI
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17.  RE: Fathers' Day

Posted 06-09-2017 10:29 PM
Hi,
Thank you. I have the same issue. There is a child in my room with 2 moms. some times his friends say he has two mothers.Every time I hear, I always say "yes that is okay. some of us have mom and dad, some times only only mom or dad  that is okay. They all love us." We talk about difference families in the circle time discussion, include picture books for children to read, and read books on different families.We are going to celebrate "Father's day" with donuts with dad.Children are going to create a "Book mark" for daddy. When the others say they are creating for day, this child wanted to do it for grandpa.But he changed it to mommy and mama. I am sure the family is going to enjoy that.

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Kusuma Udagedera
Silver Spring MD
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18.  RE: Fathers' Day

Posted 06-10-2017 05:10 PM

How about asking families to send in pictures of their families and then celebrate those- whatever the configuration or relationships?  This can then be inclusive.


Kent Chrisman, Ed.D.
Professor of Education
Delaware State University