After a parent/child breakfast in my kindergarten class we had our usual circle time. When I asked if anyone had any questions, one little boy raised his hand and asked, "How come Jason has two mommies instead of a mom and dad like I do?" I didn't know what to say.
Children are naturally curious about the similarities and differences between themselves and other people, and their questions provide a wonderful opportunity to educate them about diversity and respect. You might answer by saying, "There are all kinds of ways to make a family. Some families may have two moms or two dads. Some may have a mom and a dad. Some may have one parent and sometimes families are made up of aunts and uncles raising their nieces and nephews or grandparents raising their grandchildren. What's most important about a family is that the people in it love each other."
One way to help children learn about different kinds of family structures is to include books or other visual materials in your classroom that feature characters who were adopted, are living in single parent homes, or who are being raised by two moms or dads, or by grandparents. The more diversity to which children are exposed, the more accepting they will be of the differences that they encounter. If you're having trouble answering questions about gay or lesbian families, you might want to think about your own feelings about homosexuality. Because we live in a culture that is still rife with homophobia, it is important to look closely at your own attitudes about it. To be truly effective in working with children on diversity issues, you must be willing to continue your own learning.