Family psychotherapist Jean Malpas shares some essential lessons for parents of children who may not conform to gender norms.
Parenting is tricky enough, but what if your six-year-old son asks you if he could dress up as Tinkerbell in the school play? Or if your daughter wonders if she could grow up to be a man?
Psychotherapist Jean Malpas deals with such dilemmas daily as the director of the Gender and Family Project at the Ackerman Institute for the Family, a training facility for family therapists in the U.S. And while he offers no cookie-cutter answers, his approach -- a combination of coaching, education, parent support group, and family therapy -- underscores the need for mature communication.
- The Transgender Child
- Gender Born, Gender Made
- Gender Spectrum
- TransYouth Family Allies
- NYU Child Study Center
In this inaugural entry to our new Professional Help series, where experts reformat their dense research into digestible lessons, Malpas shares five insights from his new Family Process paper for parents to use when they talk with their potentially transgender children.
It turns out, as with most parenting issues, love, acceptance, and support go a long way.
Acceptance is protection. There is not much you can or should do as a parent to influence your child's gender identity. But there is a lot you can do to give them a sense of self and security. Accepting them for who they are will make them stronger and prepare them for potential harsher reactions. It will help them know that everyone is different in some way, yet deserving of love and respect. Research shows that this parental stance improves the future mental health of your child.