Actress Sophie Ward has called for “alternative” families to have more support, as the number of same-sex parents rises.

The actress famous for her stage and screen work, who has appeared in Jane Eyre, television series Hustle and Heartbeat, said she sometimes found it difficult knowing the best way to be a parent to her two sons when she got together with partner Rena Brannan.

Ward will appear at the Alternative Parenting Show in Covent Garden on Saturday to give advice to LGBT couples wishing to start families.

Speaking ahead of the event, Ward, who was married to a man before meeting Branna, said legal and emotional issues sometimes proved difficult as gay parents.

In an interview with the Evening Standard, playwright Brannan said: “We didn’t know any other gay parents at first and it took me a while to understand that my family was ‘alternative’.

“Also as a same-sex parent family, we had few legal rights so we did what we could with wills for example. Another issue is that the children of gay parents are faced with the decision of whether to ‘out’ their family when they meet new people. The boys take the view that it’s none of their business unless the person already knows.”

The number of gay and lesbian parents has tripled in two years. The Office for National Statistics revealed that 4,000 same-sex couples had children in their care in 2010, but in 2012 the number had risen to 12,000. The numbers included adoption and sperm or egg donation recipients.

It is expected that, when released, the numbers for 2013 will increase.

The couple got together in the 1990s, and entered into a civil partnership in 2010.

The actress said: “We tried to equip [her sons] for any difficult situations at school but really they were the ones who taught us in the end.

“As with every family, there are medical, legal and emotional issues and days like the Alternative Parenting Show offer support and a sense of community.”