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Parent reminds teachers that 'mom and dad' is not an inclusive way to refer to a child's family

Being mindful of the language we use to refer to a child's familial background is a small but important step.

Parent reminds teachers that 'mom and dad' is not an inclusive way to refer to a child's family
Cover Image Source: Twitter/Sirry Alang

There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to families. Although for centuries, the typical family has been pictured as one with a mom and dad at the helm, Sirry Alang — a professor at Lehigh University — would like teachers to remember that not every child comes from a "traditional" household. With her daughter currently attending Zoom classes from home due to the Coronavirus pandemic, Alang noticed that most teachers automatically refer to students' families in the universal "mom and dad" context without remembering that some of the kids might be from a nontraditional family dynamic.


"Teachers, your class convos are broadcasted in everyone's homes. The [number] of times the teacher has said 'your mom and dad' to my kid's class is infuriating. But a BRAVE kid just said... 'But I only told my grandma at lunchtime because my sister and I live with our grandma," Alang tweeted earlier this month. She revealed that her daughter too joined the conversation following her peer's proclamation. "Then of course my kid jumped in right away & said: 'I don't have a dad & it's ok because my mom said there are different kinds of families. Even though I would want a dad but she's gay. Gay means she only dates women.' LOL. Now my business is out there," Alang recounted.


Thankfully, her daughter's teacher was quick to correct her mistake and promised to be more mindful of the language used when referring to the students' families thereafter. "But teacher apologized and said she'll start saying 'parent or the adult helping you at home.' I have faith in this generation," Alang concluded. Her tweets quickly went viral on social media, prompting other teachers or adults who work with children to chime in with the inclusive language they use when addressing a group of kids.


"When I was a baby teacher, a great mentor once said to a group of fifth graders somethings about talking their folks. When asked about word choice, his response 'well, as I see it, not everyone has moms or dads, but everyone's got folks,'" wrote Twitter user AJS. "Done a few volunteer Red Cross preparedness sessions through work, with kids in poorer neighborhoods. The RC trainers tell you this right away. You always say 'the adult that you live with.' Though of course my lifelong English-teacher mom would correct them with: 'the adult with whom you live,'" tweeted sethmcomber.


"Mine is 'parental units' on forms and 'grownups' out loud, but imma incorporate 'people who think they're in charge' into my lexicon," promised Loni Fancher. Meanwhile, another Twitter user who is a teacher by profession explained that makes sure to be inclusive with her terminology when addressing her students. "Good for your kid! I'm a teacher and I always say, 'any grown up who takes care of you,' because of that very reason. Families look different and I don't need to be implying there's an ideal model when there isn't," tweeted @homeschoolpants.


While many still failed to grasp the importance of being mindful and inclusive when talking to children about their familial backgrounds, Glennon Doyle — an author and former teacher — pointed out that this "little language difference signals to little ones that all families are real and important and should be honored. That little difference can make a child feel celebrated instead of bothered." Sharing a screenshot of Alang's tweet on Instagram, Doyle urged "all the heroes who spend their time, energy, and talent on children" to consider replacing references to "your mom and dad" with "your grown- ups." She explained that she used this terminology when she worked as a teacher and that it made a big difference. "Adults' language can determine children's belonging," she stated.


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