Discussing Gender Identity with Your Child
There was a time parents wondered at what age they should have “the talk,” with their child. You know, the one about the birds and the bees. As society has changed and gender and sexual issues have become prominent topics, many parents now wonder how young is too young to talk about things like gender identity with their child.
The first thing that needs to be understood is that discussing gender identity is NOT the same thing as discussing sexual intercourse. Gender is not about sexual orientation (whom you are attracted to) but about how people connect with one another and orient themselves in the world.
So how should you talk to your kids about gender identity? While there is no right or wrong age to have this conversation, here are a few guidelines to keep in mind that will help make it go smoothly.
In order to talk comfortably about this topic, you’ve got to first make sure you are comfortable with the language and concepts of gender identity yourself. It will help if you can familiarize yourself with some people who are transgender.
You most likely know about Caitlyn Jenner, but search the Internet for other stories of real people. Here is a young transgender girl named Jazz. Her story might give you some important insights that will help you talk with your own child.
Be Open Minded
While some children may go to their parents with questions about gender simply because of things they’ve seen or heard outside of the home, others will have questions about themselves. Parents should never make assumptions about their child’s gender identity based on their interests or activities.
For instance, because a boy likes playing sports doesn’t mean that he doesn’t identify as a girl and vice versa. So, for instance, when discussing a topic like, “who do you have a crush on at school,” be open minded and ask if it’s a boy or a girl. Whatever their answer is, your child will appreciate that you accept them no matter what.
Before giving a presentation or going for an important job interview, most people practice and make sure they know what they are going to say and how they are going to answer questions. While you don’t want to come off as robotic with your child, you do want to look and act very comfortable. Your child will definitely pick up on any discomfort you may be feeling.
For this reason, you may want to have practice conversations with friends or family. You may find you have friends who are also preparing to have the same conversation with their child. Use each other to practice on.
Some families may find it beneficial to work with a family therapist, who can facilitate clear, honest communication.
If you and your child would like the added support of a neutral third party who can guide the conversation toward positive outcomes, please get in touch with me today or read about our counseling services for children and teens.
One of our therapists in particular, Joni, has a particular interest in helping families navigate these sensitive conversations and helping both children and families cope with all of the emotions they may experience when a child expresses concerns about their gender identity.