It’s not odd to see toddlers trying out different gender roles. But it can be a little troubling when the interests and decisions of our kids don’t align with gender stereotypes. Gender identity issues among kids is a trending topic, but there are quite a few ways in which you can positively react towards your kids if they’re gravitating towards different gender roles beyond just a quick game of dress up.
How to handle gender identity issues
Jumping to conclusions is not the answer
Kids will try out a lot of new (and often weird) roles during the first five years of their lives. During this time, they’re exploring what it means to be a girl or a boy. It’s perfectly normal, and the vast majority of kids naturally outgrow this phase. Despite the stereotypes that society is putting out there, we shouldn’t assume that girls who like wearing blue or green clothes will always be “masculine”, or that boys who enjoy the occasional game of Barbie doll will always have “feminine” desires.
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As a parent, it’s your duty to try and establish why your child is breaking the gender stereotype. Sit down and chat with your kid’s teacher, his paediatrician, and parents of friends he has at school. The more you learn about it, the better you can understand the root of the issues at hand.
Don’t incorporate adult thinking into child’s play
Young kids easily move between fantasy and reality, and they get very creative in their play, which might not align with your “realist” way of thinking like an adult. Always looking at the situation from an adult point of view can make you miss the message your kid is trying to sell. Girls might pretend to be firemen and insist on becoming a fireman one day simply because they want a Dalmatian when they grow up. Boys could pretend to be the “mommy” in games if they don’t get to be in charge enough. You might be surprised by your child’s true wishes by just taking some time to sit down and play with them now and then.
Consider getting some expert advice
Although most kids that experiment with different genders don’t require psychological help, there are a few kids that might benefit from some expert advice. Look out for clues such as a fear of going to school, a fearful demeanour, and even being more angry than usual, which can all indicate a deeper problem that needs to be addressed. A professional can help your kid learn how to deal with issues such as acceptance from the outside world.