3 Tips for Parents of Transgender Kids
As if parenting wasn’t enough of a challenge, sometimes our kids throw us curve-balls that we just didn’t see coming. Working through gender identity with our child isn’t just a curve ball — it’s all kinds of crazy pitches all at once!
There’s a lot to deal with for both a transgender child and their parents. Here are 3 simple tips to encourage you as the wonderful mom or dad you are.
1. It’s Okay to Cry!!
ANY life-changing event is worthy of letting those emotions flow! It’s healthy to release the tension in your body, mind, and spirit. Having a child with gender dysphoria isn’t as world-shattering as someone who has a seriously ill child or loses a son or daughter to death, but darn it …IT IS A BIG DEAL!! There are changes in family dynamics, friendships, school protocols, and social acceptance that now need to be considered. And that’s just the practical stuff. :-0
The more “Mom’s Heart” issue is a sense of losing the little boy or girl that you birthed or adopted. This is very true …but … it’s not so different from how we feel anytime our children grow up. All of our babies and toddlers and kindergarten-kids grow up to become someone new and more mature (well — we won’t talk about middle-school, just yet).
So is it okay to cry? ABSOLUTELY!!! Let all those fears and memories wash down your cheeks and give room in your heart for new and exciting experiences that you’ll have with your child as you discover their amazing new identity.
2. Find the Purple Swirl
Many people think there are only two genders, male and female. If someone they know is transgender, they assume it means that person is either 100% boy wrapped in a girl package or vice versa. That’s seldom the case.
If gender were two scoops of sherbet, with a scoop of blue for boys and a scoop of pink for girls, there are a lot of shades and swirls in-between the two scoops. The other thing is: those swirls aren’t usually static — they move around.
Because our language and society doesn’t really have good words for “in-between” genders, it’s very difficult to describe the experience to ourselves, much less others. As a child, it can be even more challenging since there isn’t a life-experience of examples from which to analogize or explain to others.
What’s a parent to do? Help your child discover what shade of female/male/in-between they are; in other words: “find their purple swirl.”
Explore with gentle questions like, “When did you first begin to feel different than other boys (girls) around you?” or “How have your feelings changed about ___(favorite activity with other kids)___,” or “If you could wave a wand and change your body, would you prefer it was a one-time-only spell to become a girl (boy), or something you could change back and forth?”
Exploring with your child will help both of you bring a better personal context to their gender identity, help build safe-place for future discussions, and demonstrates your love and care for them.
A word of caution though — be careful not to become an interrogator shooting one question after another, or a manipulator pushing the child toward a specific answer. This brings me to point three…
3. Don’t Clutch the Steering Wheel
Okay — some of you moms and dads are completely laid back and chill with whatever comes your way. God bless you.
That isn’t me, and (I suspect) it isn’t a whole lot of the rest of us, either! :-D
I want to grab the wheel when my daughter is heading down a road I know isn’t going to work out well for her. Well — “strongly suspect” isn’t going to go well, anyway.
Working through gender dysphoria is just another dynamic in finding our personal identity. Most of us don’t have a clear vision of who we are or who we want to be before we reach the magic adult age of 18. Frankly, I know a lot of people still searching at 48.
Like all other “growing up” issues, give your child room to explore safely but set safe boundaries. What I mean is this: things like hair styles, make-up, and clothes aren’t worth the battle. All of that stuff is “outside” the brain, body, and soul. It can and will change, just like any kid growing into an adult. However, ground-rules on how to handle transphobic adults in authority and places you agree are safe for authentic gender expression and restroom use, as well as unsafe places and people that are “off-limits” should be very clear.
So there are your three tips! Above all, remember that if you’re doing your best, you’re a TRANSTATIC parent!! Doing our best with what we know is all any of us as parents can expect of ourselves.
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I am transgender, trans-spiritual, and transformative.
I believe that being transgender has unique and wonderful aspects that are often overlooked. 3 Tips for Parents of Transgender Kids was inspired by threads in transgender support forums and written to emphasize the transtastic aspects of our lives.