Healthy Parenting Around GenderHealthy Parenting Tips
Expand your children’s possibilities by sharing with them that there are more than two genders.
Tips on Gender and Parenting
- Start with a framework for understanding gender (see Understanding Gender). Share this framework with your children in an age-appropriate language, as it can be an amazing tool to help them expand their understanding of their own gender or the gender and help them explore their gender. This includes teaching your children that bodies alone don’t determine gender. While bodies are one dimension of our gender they are not the only dimension--our gender is also made up of our identity and our social gender as well.
- Providing role models and language about all genders, and not just cisgender boys and girls, opens up our childrens’ ability to know and express themselves instead of constraining them. It could even save them years of trauma and threats to their mental health and well-being.
- Communicate to your children that everyone’s gender is unique to them and there is not just one way to be a boy, a girl or a kid. This includes that there is not just one way to be a transboy, transgirl or non-binary person either! A statement as simple as “There are lots of ways to be a boy” can create room for a child to actually think about what type of boy he wants to be instead of spending that same energy thinking about how he must conform to the one idea of what it means to be a “real boy.”
- Point out that we can’t tell a person’s gender just by looking at them. For example, just because a person is wearing makeup and nail polish doesn’t mean they identify as a girl/woman or want us to use “she/her” pronouns.
- Similarly, we don’t know everything about a person’s gender even if they tell us the term they use to describe their gender. Five different people who identify as transboys can all have different styles of dress, use a variety of pronouns, and have different feelings about their bodies. The bottom line is we don’t want to make any assumptions about someone’s gender--just ask what the term they use means to them.
- Make sure young children know that clothes, activities, colors and toys don’t have genders--only people have genders. While not taking away toys that our children enjoy, make sure they have many options and engage in play with them with a variety of toys. Also, make sure they know that just because they love a certain toy or activity, that doesn’t mean anything about their gender. (Download “Talking to Young Children about Gender” and share with teachers, family and friends to help them feel more comfortable in their conversations about gender).
- Praise girls for risk-taking, leadership, and critical thinking and praise boys for kindness and empathy.
- If you have dress codes for your children, make sure they are applied fairly to all genders and body types.
- Ask your children questions and let them teach you about gender. Understandings of gender are changing rapidly and younger generations have very different concepts about gender than many parents do.
- Remember that exploring gender can be fun! We don’t have to make every conversation about gender serious and heavy. Making room for all genders can be playful and incredibly creative.