What should I teach my preschooler about sex and sexuality? When it comes to gender, ideas about what it means to be a girl or a boy are everywhere, and these ideas have a big influence on your preschooler. What should I keep in mind?
In so many ways, society tells us how girls and boys are supposed to look, speak, dress, and act. In their attempt to sort out the world around them, your preschooler may form rigid ideas about gender and what it means for them. Most kids begin to identify strongly with a gender around age 3.
That includes transgender and gender nonconforming people, who also have a sense of their gender identity at this stage. Think through your values when it comes to gender while your kid is still small. People have different beliefs when it comes to gender roles, gender stereotypes, and gender expression.
Maybe you want your child to feel free to express themselves however they want. Maybe you want them to feel they can accomplish anything, no matter what their gender. Maybe you want them to grow up to appreciate the contributions people of all genders make in their lives and in the world.
Understanding your own values will help you focus your thoughts and express them better. Be thoughtful about your choices when it comes to books, toys, entertainment, clothes, decorations, and other things you surround your little one with.
How do I talk about different types of families? Little kids notice, and sometimes comment on, everything. Your kid may notice another kid on the playground or in their preschool who has a different kind of family than them — a family with a different number of parents, or with grandparents raising kids, or with two moms or two dads, or any number of other situations.
These observations are good teachable moments. It will also one day help them figure out the kind of family they want to build for themselves. How do I talk about gender roles and stereotypes? Little kids get ideas about what it means to be a girl or boy from the people around them — the way they act, dress, wear their hair, talk, and behave. You can expand those narrow gender boxes to include a range of other influences.
Why or why not? Does my kid generally like things like this already, or am I picking it just because of their gender? Keep in mind that gender stereotypes have the potential to affect and limit boys just as much as girls. Be mindful of how you talk around your kid, too. Talking to or in front of your daughter about growing up and having boyfriends or marrying a man and vice versa sends the message that girls are supposed to like boys, and boys are supposed to like girls, and that anything else is wrong or not normal.
This can lead to mental health issues, unhealthy relationships, and taking more health risks when they reach their teenage years. If you catch your kid talking about gender, engage them in conversation. At this age, lots of little girls love princess stuff and lots of little boys like action superheroes and sports. As your kid gets older, their tastes and interests may change, and they may be more ready for new stories, toys, and activities.
How do I know if my child is transgender or gender nonconforming? Transgender means you identify with a different gender from the one you were assigned at birth. Read more about gender identity. Trans and gender nonconforming kids are: How they identity themselves stays over time. No matter what, the best thing you can do is support your little one in the way they want to express themselves and help them feel safe no matter what.
Talking with other families with trans or gender nonconforming kids can be helpful, too — for both you and your child. There are community groups like PFLAG which may be in your area, and there are also lots of parenting groups online. If they are transgender, giving them the power to wear what they want, have the haircut they want, and even use a name that reflects their gender are all going to be really important for them to feel safe, especially once they start going to school.
For help talking to your child about this stuff, Gender Spectrum is a good place to start.