Talking to Young Kids About Gender

Gender + Parenting Resources: Gender Spectrum

These babies are thinking deep thoughts, having big conversations, you can tell.

This is the very first resource post surveying the field of people working at the intersection of gender and parenting.

If you have a favorite resource let me know in comments — I want to collect as many as possible.

Gender Spectrum is a nonprofit based in California that uses public education resources and advocacy to create a gender-inclusive world to make it better for kids.

As a long-time, small-nonprofiter I love this group. They’re scrappy, committed folks who are doing great that I hope to make more accessible here.

I admire the work of transforming services that impact young people — especially the legal, mental health, and medical professions — but my interest at the moment is on the personal, the parenting.

Gender Spectrum has some great resources for supporting gender-expansive kids but my favorite so far is a PDF called Talking to Young Children About Gender.

Unfortunately it’s a PDF — so here are a few of my favorite pieces that are extra useful!

Concepts to Keep in Mind When Talking with Your Kid About Gender

  • Everyone’s gender is unique to them. How you see yourself and how you want to express your gender is personal there is not just one way to be.
  • Things, like toys and clothes, don’t have genders (hey! I wrote about that) — people have genders.
  • You can’t tell a person’s gender just by looking at them.
  • Your body doesn’t determine your gender

8 Tips to Practice Gender Forward Parenting

  1. Be proactive about talking about gender; you don’t need to wait for your child to bring it up or for an incident to arise.
  2. Ask questions — this is a great way to hear the ideas kids already have about gender.
  3. Talk about yourself, or things you encounter related to gender, so that children can express their thoughts without having to talk about themselves.
  4. When you see media depicting gender, ask questions that encourage critical thinking:
    “Why is the mom the one making dinner and serving it?”
    “Who is strong in that show?”
    “Who is kind?”
  5. Read and talk about books that address gender.
    Do you have suggestions for these books? Add them in comments!
  6. Be conscious about how you praise kids.
    Girls are often praised for their clothes or hairstyle, or for being sweet or kind, while boys are often praised for being big, or tough or independent. If you hear this type of praise coming from other adults, think about joining in with other types of praise.
  7. Question and explore your own biases.
    For example, how do you feel about boys who wear nail polish, and girls who want to shop in the boy’s department for clothes? What messages about gender expression were you given as a child?
  8. Mix up gender language when reading stories to your kids.

Most kids won’t be trans. But more of our kids will know trans kids than we did. For kids who aren’t trans (and their parents) Gender Spectrum has enough to get you started.

For kids who are trans, their work to transform legal, medical, mental health, and other systems are necessary. Consider volunteering or making a donation.

The best thing I think we can hope to do is to raise a generation of allies. A generation of gender-affirming, loving kids. It’s my most important job, I hope you’ll join!

What do you do that makes it easier for your kid to talk about gender?

If these tips were helpful to you, share it on Facebook and click the 👏 button to help others find it!