Five Ways Parents Can Support Gender-Expansive Children

Earlier today, HRC released Supporting and Caring for Transgender Children, a new guide to ensure that transgender young people are affirmed, respected, and able to thrive. The guide, designed for community members and allies, also incorporates advice for parents raising transgender or gender-expansive children. Here are 5 important takeaways:
  1. 1.
    Practice Patience
    Patience, support and careful listening to the child are the best “medicine” for a child exploring gender. However, some parents find a child’s changing or ambiguous gender identity and expression more stressful than a clear transgender identity. Although what a child says about their gender at a young age can hint at whether they’ll turn out to be transgender, there’s often no way to be sure.
  2. 2.
    Find Support
    A family therapist can help you balance your concerns with the affirmation your child needs. You may also seek out one of the numerous online and in-person groups for parents raising gender-expansive kids. Just like their kids, these parents are of every race, gender, religion and political background. Many aren’t yet sure whether their child is transgender. Don’t assume you won’t fit in!
  3. 3.
    Consult Experts
    Competent, compassionate medical and mental health providers are vital resources for transgender and gender-expansive children and their families. They help parents and caregivers understand gender-expansive behavior and gender dysphoria, and they are important advocates with school officials. Gender-expansive children whose families work with a trusted medical provider are, on average, less anxious and depressed. Their families also have more effective coping strategies.
  4. 4.
    Make a Plan
    Family and community support are important during gender transition. For children, the family’s role is essential. Parents and guardians should work with therapists and healthcare providers to plan the transition. They must advocate for a transitioning child at school, with relatives and in other settings. Most important, they affirm and support the child through potential bumps in the road, which might include bullying, feeling “different” from peers or being excluded from social activities.
  5. 5.
    Seek “Gender-Affirming” Experts
    Clinicians increasingly embrace a “gender-affirming” approach to children who are gender-expansive or transgender. This approach means focusing on what the child says about their own gender identity and expression, and allowing them to determine which forms of gender expression feel comfortable and authentic.