12 Tips to be a better ally in your childcare service
Protect family privacy
If a family, or child, discloses their gender or sexual identity to you, treat the disclosure sensitively and with respect. Thank them for telling you, and ask if they’d like you to share this information with the educational team, or just keep it to yourself for now. Let them know that you’re always available to support their family’s culture and advocate for them and their child at the service
Know the unique ways each child refers to their parent(s) within each family
Mamma, mummy, pa, dada, daddy, ZZ – whatever it is – this goes for all children!
Don’t make assumptions about children’s family members or folk who pick them up
Avoid words like ‘husband’ or even ‘partner’, try and use the adult’s name (or the name the child uses) to refer to and about these other adults.
Don’t make assumptions about people’s sexuality
If a child’s mum is in a relationship with a woman, don’t assume she’s lesbian, she could be bisexual or pansexual, or just identify as queer. It’s probably not necessary to know the parent’s sexuality, but if you do need to know, just ask! You can say something like “Do you mind if I ask you a personal question for a project we’re doing at the service on family diversity? How do you describe your sexuality?”
When in doubt, ask for the adult’s pronouns
This is simple. Say something like “Hi! I’m Rachel, I’m Zavvies’ educator, I go by they/her pronouns – what about you?”. Ask them if you’d like to let the rest of the team know (if the team will be open to this). It’s important to never disclose this information to others without agreement. Practice on friends at first if it feels weird, you’ll get used to it! Do your best to get the person’s pronouns right – but when you make a mistake (and you will!) just say “oh, sorry, I should have said ‘they', my apologies.”
Ask broad questions
Such as “What are your goals for your child?”, “How do you want your child and your family to feel at the service”, “How can we make sure this happens?”, “Is there anything you’d like me to know about you, your child and your family”. (really – this should go for each child and family, not just those in Queer family structures).
Avoid using gendered pronouns – for children and adults - in documentation
Often the child’s name, or they/them/their will work just as well – although children may not yet be questioning their gender (though some will be!) it's really affirming when children revisit documentation from early childhood when they are older, and they may be questioning or have shifted their gender identity then.
Be mindful of the way you set the environment and select children’s literature
Ideally, you’ll have a good selection of books, posters and other displays representing family diversity, but if this is too difficult, try and minimise overly gendered or heteronormative perspectives and representations.
Be really open and flexible when it comes to Mother's Day and Father's Day celebrations
Ideally you’ll consult with families about how and whether these days should be celebrated, but if this isn’t possible to do on a large scale, just say a few words to the families you know may not be represented, and ask how they’d like to be included.
Just be factual
It can be confronting the first time you hear young children talking about two brides getting married, or a baby having two dads. It probably will happen though! When it does, just treat it like you do any other conversation and if they’re looking for your input you can just say “that’s right, women can marry women in Australia; and some people never get married” or “Some children have two daddies. What do you love about your daddy”?
Only ask necessary questions about the child’s family and life
You may be curious about who the birth mother is, or if the child knows their donor, but unless it’s relevant (and I can’t see how it could be) don’t ask. It’s not relevant to the way you support the child and family’s learning.
If you do know the child’s origin story, use it accurately with the child
Some families will be really eager to share their child's origin story with you - how fantastic! - make sure you respond in a way that respects and honours their trust, and that you use it accurately with the child. If you're unsure of the language to use, ask the family (and then use it too). Always ask a family before you share the story more widely - just double check they're happy with you to use it in a way that other children, families and colleagues will hear.