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How To Prepare Your Child for the Gender Debate
No one is more qualified to start these conversations with children than their own parents.
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The first time I ever hear the word gender I was 26 years old and had just enrolled in a master’s degree to study Women’s Health and Psychology. That was 14 years ago. During that two-year period, discussion that directly involved gender and identity was peripheral, occupying only a very small fraction of the whole course, and no radical claims or new truths were presented by any of my teachers. In fact, the subjects we learned were grounded in common sense, statistics, and many hours of conversation between students and teachers. I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to study and learn this topic almost completely untainted by ideology, yet I’m certain the same won’t be true for my children.
Parents need to understand that it’s not a matter of whether their young children will encounter radical gender ideology, but rather when. With this understanding comes the parental responsibility, if not duty, of having these conversations with their children sooner than most would like, while still approaching it from an age-appropriate stance.
There is a marked advantage for parents to be the first to engage the topic of gender with their children. Beginning these conversations early allows parents to explore these topics in a nuanced and meaningful way, and at a pace slow enough to foster understanding. This will also prevent children from being caught off guard or overwhelmed when they encounter these ideas outside the home from gender activists. Since parents know their children better than anyone, they are able to take an individualized approach when presenting multiple perspectives, scientific concepts, and practical life situations. For older children, thought processes and examples that rely heavily on rhetoric and logic can also be introduced.
If it would be irresponsible to drop your child off to go camping or hiking in the woods without first teaching him the essentials required to not get lost, hurt, or worse, why wouldn’t you give your child the essentials for navigating a topic as fraught as gender, which they’re sure to encounter and which can just as easily cause them great harm?
Children must be equipped with the proper tools to listen, understand, and discern truth from lies and non-truths. And since statements are very often not merely true or false, but may have varying degrees of truthiness and falseness, it’s important to teach them to embrace nuance, wait for more evidence before deciding what they believe, and avoid the pitfalls of black-and-white thinking. Some of the most effective lies are often wrapped up in partial truths, but if good reasoning skills and proper discernment have been encouraged from early on, the child will have an advantage over so many of his peers.
Few ideas or worldviews should be entirely unrestrained. While tolerance and inclusiveness may be laudable goals and life principles, they cannot be allowed to stifle the pursuit of truth; in general, what we tolerate today, we are expected to accept and promote tomorrow.
The world has changed dramatically since I was a kid. When I grew up there was no internet or cellphones until I was a teenager. Now, children are commonly given access to such technology at a very young age. This requires that parents and families adopt effective strategies for the present to prepare the next generations to deal with challenges we never faced. In the short run, it may seem easier for parents to keep putting off these oftentimes uncomfortable conversations to an unspecified future date. But remember, your children will encounter these topics and discussions sooner or later, so exploring these issues with your child early and making yourself available for questions, late night talks, and casual conservations, is vital.
Introducing abstract concepts incrementally in small chunks using everyday life examples will ensure they’re better absorbed, specially for younger children, but even small children can understand the idea of relativism, a concept so prevalent today that it almost goes unnoticed. The notion that we all have our truths that others must conform to and affirm, lest you be cast away from polite society, is something that used to be confined to young adults but has now become increasingly common in children in elementary and middle school. Understanding the concept of relativistic truth and being able to spot it in real time is a valuable skill that should be practiced from a young age. For teens, there is a panoply of resources from books on logic and deduction, fables and picture books that convey big truths in kid-sized bites, as well as websites and useful online videos.
Parents are their children’s first map and compass for navigating the world, and with that comes the great responsibility to steward them in directions where their intellect will be challenged and questioned, but also where they will be able to stand up to bad ideas and reject them. Mothers and fathers shouldn’t be afraid to have these discussions. You don’t need to be a scientist to present these topics in an age-appropriate manner—use your family’s context, resort to books, and talk to like-minded parents or friends.
But above all, remember that no is more qualified to start these conversations with children than their own parents.
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