What happens when your child comes home and reports that their “friend’s dad” is now a woman? That’s exactly why parents should have the transgender conversation with their kids first. The year 2015 for parenting created the hot topic of transgender conversation with young kids. After Olympic Decathlon gold medalist Bruce Jenner, who was considered a hero and role model for many years during the 70’s and 80’s decided to transition into a woman the subject became a hot topic around the world. Which by now all parents must realize the importance of having a transgender family discussion and conversation with their kids.
The biggest curiosity for a young child would likely be “can a boy turn into a girl, or can a girl turn into a boy?”
Transgender Conversation With Young Kids
Cosmo launched a documentary and the first story covers, “Mom, I’m Not A Girl”, a mother speaks about raising her son Penelope, who is anatomically female. This story was first discovered in the spotlight by ESSENCE magazine in November of 2014. Penel was born Penelope Adjua Ghartey, named after her father’s mother and the Ghanaian day of the week also when her mother went into labor.
Time reveals the best solutions for how-to start the conversation when talking to kids about transgender and how Bruce is now Caitlyn Jenner…Speaking with Michael LaSala, associate professor of social work at Rutgers University and a family therapist, says before you talk to your kids about this, you need to think about it yourself. “Parents need to do a self-inventory as to how they feel about the topic and to get straight in their minds what their feelings and thoughts and ideas are about transgender issues in general,” he says. “It behooves parents to become as educated as possible on the topic before talking to their children about it.”
Elementary school: With elementary-age children, it’s best to keep the explanation very basic, says Dr. Elijah Nealy, a clinical social worker who specializes in the transgender community. “Sometimes children are born in little girls’ bodies but they know in their hearts that they’re really a boy,” Nealy explains. “And sometimes as they grow up a doctor can help them become a boy. Young elementary age kids don’t need any more explanation than that.” In fact, Nealy says that the conversations with the young children may actually be the easiest – “My experience has been that they are able to comprehend that often much more easily than adults.”
Middle school: Nealy says parents should approach the conversation with middle schoolers the same way they might with their elementary school children: sometimes people are born in the body of a boy but feel like they’re a girl. But to add more detail to the explanation, parents can start to teach their kids of this age about the difference between sex and gender. In general, sex is biological and gender is a personal identity. Nealy says you can explain this difference and the trans community to adolescents by saying, “For most people, the way they feel about themselves matches the sex that was assigned at birth, but for some people their own internal sense of themselves doesn’t match. Those people are called transgender, and they often transition so they can live in a way that fits.”
There simply is no way to hide young kids from the transgender conversation today and parents should seek first to understand to be their child’s first teacher about the subject matter.