As parents, we often have limited ability to change the culture and the circumstances that our families live in. However, what we can do is intentionally invest time and effort into strengthening our relationship with our children and aim to keep the lines of communication as open as possible.
That said, it is important to have conversations with your children, spend time together eating meals and doing activities, listen carefully to what your children share with you and ask questions to deepen the conversation.
When it comes specifically to the topics of sexuality and gender, parents could consider discussing with their school-age children questions such as the following:
- Does anyone at school ever read books to you about boys being girls or girls being boys? Have you ever read books in your classroom or library that have boy characters changing to girls or girl characters changing to boys? If so, how does that make you feel?
- Does anyone at school ever ask you to try out different pronouns instead of “he” and “she”?
- Do you know of any students at the school who are changing from a boy to a girl or from a girl to a boy? How does that make you feel?
- Are you struggling with whether you are a boy or a girl?
- What guest speakers or presentations come to your classroom, to clubs or to school assemblies? What information do they tell you?
- Have you seen signs or heard announcements at school letting you know about clubs or activities about gender, sexuality or anti-bullying like a Gay-Straight Alliance or Queer-Straight Alliance?
- Has anyone ever invited you to attend clubs or activities about gender, sexuality or anti-bullying?
- Have you ever felt curious or pressured to join a club or activity about gender, sexuality or anti-bullying?
- Has your teacher, principal or any of the other adults in the school said anything to you or your friends that made you feel uncomfortable?
- Has an adult or student at school ever said anything that went against something you learned at home, or made fun of you for something you learned at home?
Let your children know that they can come to you if anyone in school - whether a student, guest speaker, teacher, staff member, principal or anyone else - tells them something that confuses them, makes them feel uncomfortable, or contradicts what they have been taught at home. Let them know that you are there to listen and support them through whatever struggles they may be experiencing.
It is important that we as parents aim to create a space of safety and emotional security for our children at home, where our children can process information honestly and openly and find stability in what often feels like chaos.
Research from Harvard University shows that the number one factor to build resilience in children is at least one stable and committed relationship with a supportive parent, caregiver, or other adult. We urge parents to be that person in their child’s life.
As said by Jane D. Hull, an American politician and educator: “At the end of the day, the most overwhelming key to a child’s success is the positive involvement of parents.”
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