When a child is born, their birth certificate marks them as “M” or “F.” Once they’re out of onesies, caregivers often dress them up in either pants or dresses, depending on that gender marker. At their first birthday, they might receive dolls instead of toy cars, or vice versa. Even before their birth, friends and family may have celebrated with blue or pink cake at a gender reveal party. When gender is presented as this binary, kids absorb it. Yet questions will come.
Gender is everywhere, says Russ Toomey, Ph.D., professor of family studies and human development at the University of Arizona. “Kids understand gender,” Toomey says. “It is, by far, one of the most commonly and widely used ways that we organize ourselves in society.”
Kids also know a lot more than adults give them credit for. By 3-years-old, kids begin to label their gender, and they’re constantly absorbing the information about gender around them.
So gender isn’t a scary, taboo topic that children need to be protected from, Toomey says. In fact, research shows that learning accurate, affirming information about gender can make kids feel safer and more supported in school. And kids begin to develop gender stereotypes, such as that boys are more rough and tumble than girls, around age 3 or 4. Without having conversations about these assumptions, children can’t unlearn them.
You can’t control everything that a kid learns about gender. But when they ask questions, it’s good to be prepared. Here’s how to approach some common curiosities, while staying inclusive and using language even young kids can understand.
To read the full article, please visit Fatherly.com