How to talk to your kids about gender identity
Experts share 6 tips for having those important conversations about gender and gender identity with your kids.
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Consider the ongoing conversations.
Release the notion of a one-off “big” discourse on everything to do with gender and gender identity. “You don’t have to sit down with your 5-year-old and talk about all types of sexuality,” says Mateo Sharnbroich. Instead, think of it as an ongoing discussion you are having, which may evolve and deepen as your child ages. It can help decrease your sense of urgency or stress.
If your child asks a question and you don’t know how to answer, you can research the answer together or tell your child that you will contact them again after researching, says Mateo Sharnbroich. No need to invent something.
Show unconditional love and encourage acceptance.
“State very clearly that your value system aligns with an inclusive and assertive approach,” says Mateo Sharnbroich. In other words: live your values, be tolerant, shout hateful language, avoid sexist phrases and assumptions, and show that your love for your child is great and unconditional.
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Talking to the children who are out
For children, it can be uncomfortable to be the center of the conversation, notes Mateo Sharnbroich. Asking open-ended questions and speaking positively about diversity shows you accept, without shining the spotlight on your child as they share their sexual orientation or gender identity, he says.
Dr. Cohen recommends a few additional supportive behaviors:
- Express your love: Coming out can be scary for kids (yes, again), so show your love, affection, and support.
- Use appropriate language and pronouns: Respect and affirm your child’s name and pronouns. Likewise, allow them to wear clothes that support their gender identity.
- Be welcoming: Invite your child’s LGBTQ + friends over to your home, make it a safe and welcoming space.
- Participate in host communities: Make sure that all the organizations and institutions that your child interacts with (school, doctors, camp, sports, religious organizations, etc.) welcome both your child in particular and LGBTQ + people in general, as well as people with diverse gender identities.
- Create links : Help your child meet other people from the LGBTQ + community.
Above all, speak openly about your child’s identity or direction. “Saying nothing can be hurtful,” says Dr. Cohen. Defend them against insults and negativity from others. Counter persistent myths by believing that your child can and will be happy as an LGBTQ + adult. And “tell them explicitly that they will have a good life,” he advises.
Useful resources for parents to talk to children about gender identity
Looking to learn more? There are many resources for parents available.
You will find advice by age for talking about sex and sexuality as well as sexual orientation and gender identity.
Find an array of resources on how to show support, as well as answers to FAQs.
The unicorn graphic illustration on this site, which is available in many languages, can help children discuss their gender identity, gender expression, and who they are physically and emotionally attracted to.
A rich source of scientific facts on sex and sexuality, with a useful page focused on parents. ASHA is also behind the iwannaknow.org website, which provides information for adolescents and young adults.
The site Timeline guide offers advice on how parents and caregivers can talk to children about sex, sexuality and gender from birth.
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