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As society becomes ever more accepting of non-traditional structures, an increasing number of parents and families are identifying as polyamorous or poly. Not only that but there’s a corresponding rise in ostensibly monogamous couples admitting to .
But while people might be increasingly accepting, we still live and work in a society geared towards the monogamous. This can pose logistical and often challenging problems for .
It Takes a Village
One of the primary challenges of being a is that there’s a popular misconception that atypical structures, like or parents, is somehow detrimental to the children raised in polyamorous families. But there’s nothing to back this up.
Young children, in particular, often don’t think of structures beyond their own. The oddity is not that they have multiple parents, but that other people only have two.
This changes with the approach of elementary school because children begin to develop a broader worldview. But it’s not until middle school that children begin to fully realize the differences in their compared to more traditional, monogamous relationships.
And while the realization that their is different from their friends’ home life can have ramifications for their emergent sexuality, children from poly families are no more likely to overthink their parents' than other children.
In fact, children are more likely to see the advantages of . They see their as:
- An extensive support network
- Multiple sources of attention
Legal Parents and
Where the model does have ramifications, however, is for . Despite increasingly accepting not only poly relationships but open marriages and relationships, many states still favor monogamous unity.
For a third domestic partner to take on legal responsibility for the children in poly families, one of the legal parents must surrender their rights.
And the problem isn’t limited to or those practicing . It’s also an issue for children closely involved with both their biological and step-parents who might have raised them.
Consequently, there’s a careful balance that the monogamous and polyamorous struggle to keep between maintaining everyone’s parental rights and allowing for active and open parental participation.
However, this isn’t always the case. At least 12 states have re-assessed and adoption law to expand the definition of parenthood and facilitate co-parenting by .
But this only helps in a situation where all domestic partners live in the same state. Ideally, they would, but sometimes relocating to a place that has adjusted its and adoption laws isn’t a viable option.
In that situation, co-parenting agreements can be invaluable to poly families. A co-parenting agreement solidifies what to expect from all domestic partners, including:
- child care
- financial contribution
- Daily routines and logistics
They can also help if something happens to change the , such as:
- Partner(s) leave(s) the
Although co-parenting agreements aren’t legally binding, they can help polyamorous families navigate some of the pressures of a predominantly monogamous model. And while poly people may not feel the need or want to quantify their relationships with their children through co-parenting agreements, they can be helpful if object to the arrangement.
Coming Out to
As with any , what a tells their about their personal life is a matter of personal choice. The decision to come out to is no different and making it can be difficult.
And while many polyamorous families can and do thrive, research suggests they face added prejudices due to:
All of these impact partners' decisions in multiple-partner relationships to disclose their to . The generational gap created between polyamorous people and grandparents, for instance, can be challenging to navigate. And a ’s decision to disclose their non-monogamous status to them will depend on the grandparents' convictions on .
How to navigate the question of disclosure is a deeply personal choice for each and significantly affected by the perceived safety or otherwise of revealing the .
Children in poly families may not suffer adverse effects from their parents' , but if disclose goes wrong or causes a familial rift, they may feel the effects of the fallout.
This is particularly true if a grandparent is less than enthusiastic about a non-biological grandchild. While polyamorous families hope for tolerance, many people couch their concerns about the ethics of and in terms of their grandchildren’s well-being.
Helpfully, while polyamorous families that opt to come out strive for a tolerant , there’s a wide familial support network available.
This allows them to pick and choose which connections children are exposed to until the is satisfied the whole is a safe and welcoming place.
When the does express concern for the children in poly families, many members of the take their cue from the LGBTQ+ community when it comes to fielding concerns over child welfare.
In the ideal scenario, a ’s parent adapts to their child’s over time. But when that doesn’t or can’t happen, many polyamorous people turn to the surrounding , as well as the LGBTQ+ community for support.
Parenting Techniques for Polyamory Families
For poly families that can and do safely disclose their , that still doesn’t solve every problem.
Another problem for is conflicting parenting styles. This can be especially difficult for solo or poly people who parent with a but have other secondary partners who help parent their children.
As with monogamous families, it’s common for one polyamorous partner to be stricter than the others. But whereas a monogamous couple would negotiate the best way to parent between the two of them, for , the dialogue widens to include the other domestic partners.
Communication is Crucial
Successfully juggling multiple opposing opinions requires honest and open communication. Indeed, this is the bedrock of many successful since it helps:
- Build intimacy
- Set boundaries
- Share feelings
- Negotiate agreements
The subsequent communication fosters closeness and connectivity between the members of the relies on creating a safe, emotional environment that allows all members to parent and thrive. as a result. While no one sets out to be brutally honest, the successful
Moreover, while can pose logistical challenges for and families, it also allows them greater freedom. With multiple people navigating the , it’s possible to transfer traditionally gendered roles from person to person.
Because a predominantly monogamous outlook has no inbuilt roster for multi-partner relationships, the question of how to divide parenting roles becomes less about who is expected to do what and more about who is best suited for the job.
Consequently, children from are less conditioned to certain gendered expectations than their peers and demonstrate more flexibility when adapting to changing environmental norms.
Navigating Break Ups
But not every lasts forever. One of the disadvantages polyamorous parents cite when discussing is the multiple break-ups children experience if and when domestic partners leave.
However, children are naturally adaptable and with the right guidance, can take many things in stride. Consequently, many polyamorous people tackle this problem by modeling good break-up behavior to the best of their ability.
What’s more, to help children adjust, members of the often frame break-ups not as permanent severances but as transitions. This kind of flexibility means that while a may leave the unit, they don’t disappear altogether.
It’s not unusual for a former partner to remain involved with childcare or even as platonic partners of a former fellow member.
And the children? When handled well, these transitions help teach them that love comes in all shapes and sizes and doesn’t have to be romantic.
, and particularly are rife with benefits. Children thrive on the extra attention and can draw on a larger support network than their peers to fulfill their emotional needs.
And report a more flexible division of labor between work and childcare, not to mention more sleep for everyone.
But it’s not without drawbacks, either. Polyamorous families run the risk of encountering logistical difficulties:
- Becoming legal parents
- Deciding whether to disclose the
- How to parent
- Handling break-ups
Some states have begun tackling the problem of multiple partner adoption. And for those families where partners live out of state or simply aren’t in a state that can accommodate their , co-parenting agreements help facilitate some of the legal logistics.
For almost everything else, open and honest communication is vital. Knowing how a partner feels and what they need is integral to successfully navigating a .
Many say it’s equally crucial when dealing with children in and regularly check in with their children to ensure they aren’t experiencing the stigma that comes with an atypical structure or have questions about the nature of their parents' .
Most children, however, find they have no questions. , after all, is , irrespective of the number of people it encompasses.
If you are struggling with your feel free to reach out. situation, there are experts who specialize in these matters and can help make things easier, so