Are Pride Festivals Child-Friendly?

Many parents struggle with the question of whether to take their child to a Pride event. On the one hand, introducing children to the celebration of LGBTQ+ people is crucial and this should be done as early as possible – but on the other, Pride events can be boisterous, sexual, and over the top. So, what should parents do if they want to take their children to a Pride festival?

Many Pride festivals are child-friendly, but there are a few important precautions parents should take. One is to research the festival thoroughly in advance, making sure that it’s appropriate. Another is to always have a responsible adult with the child, whether that’s the parent or somebody else. You should also spend time deciding what you’re okay with your child seeing, and considering the specific situation you’re in.

In many cases, you can take your child to a Pride festival, yes – but if you’re going to do so, it’s well worth considering each of these areas first.

Research The Pride Festival

1) Research The Festival

The first thing you should do before taking a child of any age to a Pride festival is to do some research on the festival. Different Pride events have very different atmospheres and approaches, and what you’ll see and hear at one can vary enormously from another.

Pride festivals generally have an atmosphere of celebration and positivity, which many parents find attractive and pleasant, and which children can often engage with. However, you do want to check various sources to determine whether a Pride festival is likely to be suitable for your little one.

The first place you should look is on the organizers’ website. See what they say about attending with children, and whether they give any age recommendations. Some Pride festivals make more of an effort to be family-friendly than others. Some will have restrictions on certain areas (e.g. tents serving alcohol).

Use this as your first guide on whether your child can attend. However, if the signs seem positive, don’t stop there – do some further research.

Look up reviews of the festival online or, if possible, talk to people who have attended in the past. What is their take? Will it be okay to take a child of your kid’s age, or might there be things you don’t want them to see? Checking out images from previous events can also help you to make this assessment.

There are many different ways to find out more about what the event is likely to involve in advance. If you’re still really not sure when you’ve done your research, consider going yourself this year (or sending a trusted friend to scope it out), and taking your child next year.

In almost all cases, Pride festivals will be absolutely fine for children to attend, but some parents feel it’s better to be safe than sorry – so do proceed with some caution!

2) Have A Responsible Adult

No matter what Pride festival you attend, your child should always be accompanied by a responsible adult, who has not been drinking. That’s true even if the festival calls itself the most child-friendly event on the planet.

Pride is inevitably a coming together of thousands of strangers, and while most will be lovely, no parent wants to lose sight of their child in this sort of setup. You should therefore make sure that there is a plan for your child to be with you or another responsible, trusted adult throughout the celebration.

Older children may be fine to wander a little bit, but remember that in a crowd like this, it’s very easy for even an older child to get lost. On the whole, therefore, you should have a plan for all kids under the age of 18 to be accompanied at all times. Indeed, some Pride festivals make this a condition of entry, so be aware of that fact when planning your day out too.

Have A Responsible Adult

3) Think About The Context

Another important factor when deciding whether a Pride festival is suitable for your family is your child’s personality and their awareness so far. Every child is different, which makes drawing hard lines about what is and is not appropriate pretty challenging.

Is your child already well aware of the LGBTQ+ scene? Do they understand many of the concepts and the different expressions of self that they may see? If so, attending a Pride festival is more likely to be an enriching, rewarding experience for them, where they feel included and have an opportunity to learn more.

However, if you’re only just introducing your child to LGBTQ+ ideas, a Pride festival may be a little overwhelming, depending on what it’s like. Many children will enjoy the colors and the celebratory atmosphere, but you do have to be aware that they will see other things too.

Pride festivals almost inevitably have some people displaying their kinks. Whether that’s leather, pups, furries, or something else, it’s pretty likely to be out in the open at a Pride festival. People have argued both ways about whether this should be the case or not, with some arguing that Pride has to remain family friendly, and others arguing that this is discriminatory and oppressive.

Whichever way you feel about it, the reality is that you are very likely to see this kind of thing if you attend a Pride, and knowing how your child will react is key. If they’re likely to be confused, worried, or upset, you may want to reconsider taking them – or at least introduce them to these concepts at home first.

However, for the most part, children can take this sort of thing in stride and will not be overly alarmed by it. If you feel comfortable as a parent, they are likely to feel comfortable too. It’s not something you have to have detailed conversations about – but be aware you’re probably going to end up fielding some tricky questions (more on that later).

In short, knowing your child and how they are likely to respond is fundamental to recognizing whether a Pride festival is suitable for them. Many children will be fine, but consider your child’s sensitivity levels before plunging ahead with this.

4) Do Some Preparations

With the above section in mind, it’s worth spending a bit of time preparing your child for Pride. That doesn’t mean you have to launch into extensive lectures, but do take the time to explain a Pride festival to them, and to talk about what they might see there.

You may want to pull up some pictures or footage of past Pride festivals so they know what to expect. Children often do better when they have an idea of what’s coming, especially if they’re pretty young, so a bit of prep time is ideal.

It will also help them to get more from the festival, because they’ll have a better understanding of what it’s like and why it exists. Pride is important for so many reasons, and if your child doesn’t understand any of them, they’re missing out!

Reading LGBTQ+ books, watching family-appropriate movies, looking at pictures, and having conversations will all help your child to make the most of a Pride event, and minimize the risk of them being confused/upset by something they see.

It’s also important to teach your child a bit about the etiquette of Pride. Many kids will point and stare when they see something new, and you don’t want them to do this at Pride; strangers shouldn’t be used as life lessons for your child. Instead, teach them how to address their questions to you, politely and without making anybody self-conscious.

5) Prepare For Questions

Inevitably, your child is going to want to ask questions about the things they are exposed to during a Pride festival. Children always have questions when they encounter new things! Most parents are already pros at fielding these, but bear in mind that some questions related to Pride might be a little trickier to handle.

It’s often hard to know how much to say and how much to leave unsaid when dealing with relationship-related questions and children. You want your child to understand and feel respected and empowered, but you don’t want to overwhelm them with more information than they need or can handle at this age.

For many parents, anticipating possible questions and considering potential answers in advance is a wise move. You may even want to do some research into the best ways to handle these things. It’s a careful balance in many cases, and you’re less likely to feel awkward and flustered if you’ve done a bit of preparation.

Of course, your child may still be able to throw a complete stumper at you – that’s just how children are! Even so, if you’ve done a bit of work in advance and you have a general idea of how much information to give, you’re going to be much better off.

In most cases, a simple, straightforward answer with as little embarrassment as possible is the best way to deal with a child’s questions. The child will usually just respond with a simple “okay,” or perhaps a follow-up question or two, and then move on.

6) Have A Backup Plan

It’s always important to have a backup plan when going to an event with children. If your child gets overtired, alarmed by something, upset, anxious, or otherwise has a negative experience, it may be necessary to leave. Make sure you’re able to do that effectively, either by having someone who can take your child from you, or by having someone who can take over any responsibilities you have at Pride.

Be prepared for this, too. Although most children love Pride celebrations and there’s nothing to say they shouldn’t attend, kids are kids, and stuff happens! It might be a little disappointing to have to take them home early, but it’s just one of those things. There’s always next year.

7) Get Them Involved

Some parents are afraid to get their kids involved in Pride because they don’t want to be seen as pressuring or corrupting them, but involvement is key to the learning process for many children – and you should offer them options for joining in with the fun.

That might involve dressing up in bright colors, painting faces, adding makeup, or carrying a flag. It might mean they have colored powder to throw (probably better for older kids who know how to do this appropriately) or some confetti they can toss around.

Conclusion

Taking children to a Pride event is often extremely positive, as long as you are prepared for the fact your child is likely to be exposed to some unusual things, and may have a good few questions for you afterwards. In general, these events are excellent learning experiences for children, as long as you do your research and prepare them accordingly!

Gay Worlley

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