There was a time when parents did not feel the pressure of discussing gender identity with their kids, mainly because it wasn’t popular. These days, you cannot just assume your child conforms to the gender they were assigned at birth. Society is embracing the changes and feelings of all to create a more accommodating environment, which means kids can now express themselves more freely.
You may want to delegate this discussion to the school, but you would only have yourself to blame if your child turns out a little confused and lacking in knowledge. A teacher is not obliged to talk to a student about gender identity, especially in schools that do not teach sex education. This means you have to get ready to have this (somewhat) uncomfortable conversation with your child as a parent.
Some children know their gender, but some may start questioning how their bodies turned out if they feel like it didn’t fit how they expected to feel. This mainly happens when they enter teenage, which is the age where their bodies start growing in various ways. Some may experience a gender identity crisis at this point, which is where an understanding adult is needed. Most kids will start to do some research about their bodies and feelings to learn more about, and support is what they need the most at this point. You can help them with the research to find useful information about their feelings and whether or not they may be on the spectrum.
Some parents and caregivers usually notice that their charges are not conforming to their birth-assigned gender, so they are ready and able to lead them in the right direction when the questions arise. Others are blindsided, so they have to start learning how to deal with the situation before offering any support. The good thing is that there are enough online resources that anyone willing can learn from these days. One of the most important things is that a child dealing with a crisis feels supported at home as they may already be dealing with gender discrimination among students at school.
Here are four practical ways to talk to your child about identity.
Learn the Terms
We are quite keen on people’s orientation, which is great, but we can be just as keen on gender identity terms as it defines who someone identifies as. Some of the top terms include transgender, cisgender, gender fluid, and gender nonbinary. Gender fluid people are on the spectrum where their gender roles change easily – from male to female and vice versa. Nonbinary is where a person identifies as both male and female. Most people will choose the pronouns ‘they.’ A transgender person is the opposite of their birth-assigned gender, while the cisgender people identify as the gender they were assigned at birth. You will not solve the gender problem by knowing these terms, but you will understand your child better when you know and respect how they identify.
Talk Positively About Different Genders
Kids will open up when they feel supported, so you want to approach the topic easily with some research. They may have a hard time outrightly coming out to you or saying they question their gender, so you may want to be subtle with your words. For instance, say you appreciate that TV programs include talent that is differently gendered, and over time they may have the courage to say how they really feel. If your child is a student, you could talk to their teacher often, especially when you can tell from the signs that they do not conform to their birth-assigned genders.
Usually, you want to wait until your child comes to you, but you may be forced to prod with caution if they are struggling with some things. They could start getting anxiety attacks, isolating, or even self-harming, at which point you want to ask them to be straight-up with you. People usually open up where there is love and no judgment, so you want to apply these qualities in all your interactions. This could be a study process for the parents, too, so you will be on a journey together.
Use the Right Terms
When they finally feel comfortable enough to open up to you, use their preferred terms when talking to them and encourage those interacting with them to do the same. Acceptance at home and the support of their nearest and dearest will give them the courage to live their best lives at college and other places.
Check online for essay options that discuss gender identity if you are unsure you understand what it means and how to approach the subject with a teen. Thanks to the increased awareness in this area, there are enough free resources to make your work much easier.