Going to Your Kid’s Professionals
Sometimes you are going to need to approach your children’s teachers, doctors, and other adult figures in your kid’s life about polyamory. For instance:
- If your children have more than 2 parental figures who will be coming to parent-teacher conferences
- If you want one of your poly partner’s to be able to take your children to the doctor’s office
- If your child needs therapy for one reason or another–
- The therapist will need to know about all the child’s parental figures and/or other adults living with you.
- If your child knows about your relationships and it is likely to come up during therapy, you are better off telling the therapist yourself. Otherwise, they may get garbled information and draw the wrong conclusions from what your child says.
Most of the time you will only need to go to your kid’s professionals if you are out about being polyamorous. Whether or not you are closeted, there is one time I highly recommend starting a conversation about polyamory. If you are facing a potential custody battle that will involve polyamory, you need to go to your child’s therapist. By doing so, you ensure your child has the best support possible during a difficult time (custody battle) and may be able to help your case.
Before talking with your child’s professional, read over the post about educating your own poly-friendly professionals.
Start the conversation simply and frankly. Dancing around the topic is not helpful, and may irritate some people. “Our family includes three parental figures, myself, my child’s father, and [third parent]. [Third parent] will sometimes be bringing in Child in to their appointments. What paperwork do I need to fill out so you can talk about our child’s health care with [third parent].”
“Child may mention my boyfriend. Boyfriend spends a lot of time at our house and he and child have a good relationship. Lately, we’ve been talking about my boyfriend moving in with our family.”
“Child doesn’t know this, but Spouse and I have an open relationship. I am dating … and Spouse is dating … Our relationships don’t impact child at all, but I’m worried they might come out in the custody case.”
Try to let the conversation develop naturally from there. Don’t become defensive or apologetic. Answer questions that aren’t too personal or that are relevant to your child’s care or wellbeing. And always remember: you are the parent. If they respond in a negative, prejudiced, or dismissive manner, you can almost always find a different doctor, therapist, and even teacher.
When Your Child’s Professional Comes to You
Sometimes you don’t go to your kid’s professional—sometimes they come to you. If you are in the closet, most conversations with your child’s professionals will start this way.
Professional’s aren’t going to approach you just because they are curious. They are going to be coming to you with a problem.
A call from your child’s guidance counselor: “I’m worried about Child. They’ve been getting in a lot of trouble in class and been in several fights lately. When I tried to talk with them about it, they said they are scared you and Spouse are getting divorced. They think someone is having an affair.”
A therapist in a meeting: “Child is uncomfortable with So-and-So. Child, can you share what you told me?” Child tells you that they don’t like how much time you are spending with your SO and feel like you are neglecting their other parent and your family.
Since these conversations are already starting on a problem, you are going to need to not just explain your relationships, but address the problem. Sometimes this will be relatively simple.
To the guidance counselor: “Oh, I know why they might think I was having an affair. No. No affair, and no divorce. I’ll talk with Child tonight and explain everything. Since they’re already comfortable talking with you, let me give you the full story.”
Others will be more complicated. Explaining polyamory to your child and their therapist might help them understand WHY you are spending so much time with So-and-So. But it does nothing to address your child’s feeling that you are neglecting their parent and your family. You will need to take action—starting with an honest assessment of whether or not you are neglecting your family (remember, NRE can make you do the wacky). If you are neglecting your family, you are going to need to correct that as a first step to helping your child. If you aren’t, you still need to help your child come to terms with your relationships and understand that you can have a life of your own without neglecting your family. Hopefully, your child’s therapist will understand and support you in this.
If one of your child’s professionals is coming to you about something related to your relationships, you will probably need to out yourself to both the professional and your child. It is sometimes possible to avoid outing yourself. Doing so requires first finding a way to address the problem without revealing how the problem relates to your relationships. Second, it requires getting the professionals support in implementing your solution. And many professionals are very good at seeing through bullshit. If they think you are hiding the real cause of the problem, you will have a hard time getting them to work with you.