8 Positive Ways to Address Children’s Gender Identity Issues

Are you finding it difficult to address your children’s gender identity? Does your daughter enjoy playing with boys more than girls and can’t stand the thought of playing with dolls and wearing dresses? Does your son want to play dress up with his sister and play princesses instead of playing with boys’ toys and getting dirty? With new books regarding gender like My Princess Boy and Cinderella Ate My Daughter, this topic has been quite popular amongst parents. In this article, we offer 8 positive ways to react to your child if he or she leans toward a different gender role.

  1. Don’t Over Think It – Ellen Braaten, Ph.D., director of the Learning and Emotional Assessment Program at Massachusetts General Hospital, explains that it’s a normal part of child development for children to explore what it means to be a girl or a boy. “The first few years of life are a time for children to try out different gender roles…It’s a stage that the vast majority of children will outgrow.” So if your child likes playing with toys and being active in activities that are different than his or her own gender role, it doesn’t mean your child will be gay or more feminine or more masculine. It’s more than likely just a stage of development.

  2. Think Like a Child, Not an Adult – Children love to be creative and explore. They can move in and out of reality and child’s play very easily. It could be simply that your child is wanting to play make believe! Your son may want to be a mommy while playing house because he loves the way you nurture him. Your daughter may want to be a race car driver because she likes speed and adventure. Allow your child the opportunity to play and be creative – they’re only young once.

  3. Become Informed – Speak with your child’s pediatrician, other parents, and teachers regarding gender roles. The more you understand gender roles and child development, the more informed and understanding you will be to your child.

  4. Find a Happy Median – Be nurturing and kind to your child during these young years of trying to figure out who she or he is. Your child may be teased at school so make sure you boost his or her confidence and let your child know how special he/she is. Dr. Braaten explains, “Children are more resilient and roll with the punches if their parents are on their side.” This doesn’t mean though, that you have to increase your child’s interest in portraying a different gender role. This means if your son likes playing princesses doesn’t mean you have to start buying him princess toys.

  5. Who is the “Problem?” – Many parents think their child is the problem when he or she leans toward another gender role. But often times, it’s usually the parent that is the problem. How can this be? When you try to control too sternly what your child can or cannot do or how they creatively play, it can hurt your child’s development. Accept and love your child and find what is right for you and your family.

  6. Seeking Out a Professional – Most children that experiment with different gender roles don’t need counseling but it does benefit some that may be teased, picked on, or bullied at school. A professional counselor can help your child work through what he or she is experiencing. If your child becomes sad more regularly, angry, scared, or fearful, you may want to seek a licensed counselor’s help so your child can continue to blossom into a confident human being.

  7. Communicate Openly with Your Child – If your child wants to play a different gender role, kindly communicate with your child about how people may react. If your child still wants to experiment, at least he or she will know what to expect.

  8. Find a Community – You and your family are not alone in trying to work through child gender roles. Cheryl Kilodavis, author of My Princess Boy, stated, “When you release the secret, you realize it isn’t so shameful, because people all over the world are going through the same thing. And that knowledge can be very empowering.”

Please contact us at Jolly Fun House Playschools if you have any further questions regarding child gender roles. We are here to help!