A child thrives when he or she has a loving family caring for them. But in today's world, that family can sometimes look different from the traditional makeup. These families still care for their children and provide them with a stable loving home.

A child thrives when he or she has a loving family caring for them. But in today's world, that family can sometimes look different from the traditional makeup. These families still care for their children and provide them with a stable loving home.

Three families are profiled here, including a divorced single mom, a homosexual mom, and a mom with an adoptive son from a different race. All the parents care deeply for their children and offer some good advice for parents who may be in the same type of parenting situations.

The Sherrod Family

Laura Sherrod is a single white mother who shares custody of an adopted African American son.

Talking to the child
"Kaleb knows he looks different than we do. However, he will tell you that God makes people in all colors and shapes. We talk about the fact that we are all different and that even though Mommy and Daddy each may have the same color skin, we have different hair and eyes," Sherrod said. When she and her ex-husband decided to adopt, she said skin color was not important but rather, finding a child who needed a home and a family.

Struggles
Sherrod explored school systems and moved to one where diversity is celebrated and where her son would be encouraged to learn and celebrate his own talents. She also looks for activities that will celebrate his culture and heritage. "I want him to be proud of who he is and what he can grow up to be. My biggest goal is for Kaleb is to grow up happy and healthy and believe he can do anything he sets out to do," she said.

Advice to other parents
She encourages other families to celebrate their differences and their similarities. "Love your child and all that they have to give and celebrate with them, cry with them and most of all, have fun with them. Kaleb is the light and joy of my life and I am so blessed to have him. He makes me smile and laugh each day and to watch him grow is one of the greatest joys I have ever known," Sherrod said.


The Livergood Family

Joy Livergood is a homosexual mother of two children: a 15-year-old daughter and 3-year-old son.

Talking to the kids
"I am open with my kids; however, the openness does not extend to inappropriateness. There are always things kids may ask that just don't need to be explained in detail," Livergood said. "We also spend time with other families like ours."

Struggles
The biggest struggle Livergood sees is the legal recognition of families. "Additionally, there is the stigma of abnormality that comes with homosexuality. Fortunately, Columbus is fairly progressive. However, one does not have to travel too far to sense disapproval," Livergood said.

Advice to other parents
Livergood advises other homosexual parents to protect their families legally as much as possible. Consult with an attorney and explain your situation and decide what legal protection you want to have in place. She also suggests being open, honest and available to your children. Society provides many opportunities to stigmatize families that do not conform to the traditional model. "As parents, we are the primary avenue for helping our children realize that alternative families are normal," she said.


The Stover Family

Vickie Stover is a divorced single mother of three teenagers: one daughter in college, another in high school, and a son in middle school.

Talking to the kids
Stover believes the most important thing she has learned is to really listen to your children because they are smart and instinctively aware of what is really happening. "You have to be honest with them, but I tried to be as brief as possible when they were young and talk only enough to satisfy their questions. As they grew older, I could go into more depth with answers. I was truly amazed at how strong they were," she said.

Stover made sure her children realized the divorce was not their fault and their father still loved them. "I told them that although we wouldn't have the traditional family and would be a little different, that we were very lucky to have everything we had and would continue to love each other and care for each other as much as any other family," she said.

Struggles
Stover worried about how she was going to be able to do the work of two parents. "I definitely learned to just take one moment at a time. At the beginning [of divorce], your kids are the reason you get up every day. Worry never helps anything. It's hard to deal with everything at first because you really can't see things clearly due to all the emotion that is involved," she said.

Advice to other parents
Stover thinks parents need to work together to have a united front and to most of all love your children unconditionally. "Always remember why you are together and put your faith, your children and your spouse before yourself. I hate to say it, but our generation tends to be a little too self-centered. I've really tried to help my children learn that they are most happy when they are trying to help others rather than concentrating on themselves," Stover said.

She also depended a great deal on her family and friends for her and her children's emotional support. "We all have come such a long way and have improved immensely. Parenting, whether single or not, presents different struggles every day and most cannot be anticipated. I do miss having another adult help with decision making."


Pattie Stechschulte is a freelance writer living in Westerville with her husband Steve and two sons, Will and Jack.